Grim_Noir Gets Lost In The “AMNESIA LABYRINTH!”

Amnesia Labyrinth cover 1

When the ol’ interwebs lit up that the original author of the “Haruhi Suzumiya” novels, Nagaru Tanigawa, was writing a dark, psychological manga, I was intrigued.

And why why not? His “Haruhi Suzumiya” series is light fantasy/sci-fi which deftly takes an Angelica-Pickles-type character, advances her to junior high school, gives her the unconscious powers of the kid from the “It’s a Good Life” episode of “The Twilight Zone,” and sweeps through it all with an understated current of confused, budding feminine sexuality.

So Tanigawa writing for a darker 16+ market, in black & white graphic novel format, with illustrator Natsumi Kohane should be awesome, right?

Well…

Even after plunking down my virtual ducets to virtually purchase Seven Seas’ English translation of volumes one and two of the “Amnesia Labyrinth” manga, the only answer I can give you is, “Maybe…”

Academic and athletic high school over-achiever Souji Kushiki is forced to return from boarding school to his rich family’s estate after his brother has either had a¬†breakdown or relinquishes his responsibilities. (It is only mentioned in passing.) Souji has not been home for over two years and his three sisters appear to blame themselves for his self-imposed exile. (WARNING/SPOILER: His sisters’ insecure doting becomes more and more sexualized as the story progresses.)

His first day at his new school, Souji is cornered by a Peppermint-Patti-like student named Yukako (she does everything but call him “Chuck”). Yukako thinks she can use Souji’s family connections and ropes him into helping to investigate the unsolved murders of three other high-achieving students from their school.

However, Yukako may have chosen the wrong stalking horse, as it becomes very evident very quickly that Souji’s family is involved in the murders up to their twisted moe necks.

Is Souji’s sister, or his half-sister, or his step-sister the murderer? Is Souji covering for his older brother, who may or may not be locked in the basement? Could Souji himself be suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder? He might even be being gaslit by one or more of his family using a possibly opium-based incense…. Or is something even more insideously supernatural going on?

The writing and artwork are deliberately ambiguous and ambitious enough for any or all of these solutions. Plus, the plot certainly feels like David Lynch and David Cronenberg got stoned and wrote a script together, giving it a very creepy “anything-could-happen” vibe.

Where Volume 2 falls down is in the execution: There is no quid pro quo, Clarice. In Volume 1, for every hard-won answer, a new question was introduced, right up to the last page. However, Volume 2 is so puzzling that the reader can’t even be sure what is foreshadowing and what is supernatural occurance.

As frustrating as “Amnesia Labyrinth” Volume 2 is (and believe me, the ending of chapter 8 is extremely frustrating), I still cannot tell if Volume 2 is the “Empire Strikes Back” of this saga or the complete deteriorization of the whole series. Worse yet, readers will suffer from a severe case of comicus
interruptus
, as the third volume hasn’t even been completed in Japan, so it could be six to nine months before Volume 3 reaches American shores.

Unless you really love the works of Nagaru Tanigawa, I must reluctantly recommend that you wait until the reviews of “Amnesia Labyrinth” Volume 3 are out before deciding whether or not to collect this manga.

Amnesia Labyrinth cover 2

* GRIM_NOIR is: A) Mad, B) Bad, C) Dangerous to Know, D) Now with 50% More Follow @Grim_Noir on Twitter

 


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