One of the things that surprised me (and continues to surprise me) about TokyoPop was their ability to survive off of B-list titles. The subject matter of this review is a prime example. Butterfly is the definition of B-list. The series is a five-volume supernatural/horror/gender bender from Gentosha, which looks to have a really smart collection of josei and seinen manga. Why this series was picked from all of the other content Gentosha could provide is really not the subject of this review, but it is worth considering. Perhaps Tokyopop was getting smarter with their releases, and knew that Butterfly would appeal to their fan base.
If that is the case, this series proves that I was not a part of the TokyoPop fan base. The story centers on Ginji, a high-school guy with a severe hatred for the occult, but who is haunted by the image of his dead brother. This dead brother appears to have hung himself, for reasons unknown. Ginji meets up with a girl who his friend has introduced him to and ends up in a rough spot at a carnival. He gets spooked in a haunted house, punches an actor in the face, and then runs off. This turns out to be a problem when the company that owns the carnival blackmails Ginji for 600,000 yen (approximately $6000) to keep from reporting him to the police. Ageha, a middle school girl/boy (gender ambiguity ensues yuk yuk) promises to pay all of Ginji’s debts if he helps her kill all the ghosts in existence.
So after a completely contrived beginning with holes in it the size a of Mac truck you could drive through, we get to these episodic adventures where Ageha uses his/her special powers to create a ghost out of the thoughts and memories of the people who believe in it, and then Ginji kills the ghost. The ending of the manga promises an upcoming tell all about Ginji’s brother and the death of some small girl that somehow leads to his death? It’s not very clear, and the lack of future volumes makes it a moot point.
I don’t like the art in Butterfly. It has a sort of sketchy quality that I don’t care for (personal taste here, so this is right up your alley if you like less refined art). The character designs are also very much rooted in the early 2000’s which makes sense, given the original publication date in 2003. The manga hasn’t aged that well, especially now that readers are far more likely to see illustration like Tegami Bachi or Blue Exorcist as their shonen manga of choice. It shows that things have changed since the boom years, and it shocks me that Tokyopop liked this series enough to publish it in the USA. It has all the hallmarks of dated material written when anyone would pay any amount for these comics.
Am I being overly critical? Perhaps. TokyoPop, for all the ridiculousness of its closure and limited reopening to publish Hetalia (this may or may not be the case, news to come as we find out more) did produce some good comic books for American audiences. Some of these comics sold copies, even! But I don’t think I am overly critical when I say thatButterfly was a very typical TokyoPop license, and one of the reasons why I wasn’t a huge fan of their catalog. Series like Butterfly aren’t my favorites, and even if there were another 4 volumes waiting in the wings to read, I wouldn’t. I don’t even suggest you go out and buy Butterfly on the second-hand market – it’s not worth the time.