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Missing Vol. #01 Review

4 min read
The series is off to a promising start

The first volume of Missing engrosses the reader in a world filled with interesting things, many of which happen to some not-so-interesting people.

Creative Staff:
Writer/Artist: Gakuto Coda
Translated by: Andrew Cunningham

What They Say
As a child, Kyoichi Utsume was spirited away, but somehow he returned to our world. Now in high school, he’s a loner famous for his all-black outfits, his arrogant attitude, and his extensive knowledge of the occult. Then one day, he meets her, and things between the two worlds are never the same.

The Review
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kyoichi Utsume is best known to his friends and classmates not for his bizarre obsession with the supernatural and his all-black wardrobe, but rather for his seeming indifference to pretty much any sort of human emotion. The discovery that he’s recently managed to find a girlfriend, then, comes as such a surprise to them that they probably wouldn’t have been too shaken by the fact that he literally pulled her out of thin air. The fact that Utsume insists on showing Ayame around to all of his classmates just makes Takemi and Ryoko more suspicious, and they end up tailing the couple to the edge of town out of sheer curiosity. There, Ryoko watches helplessly as Utsume is drawn into an enveloping darkness.

When word of Utsume’s disappearance makes it to his other friends Aki and Toshiya, the four begin piecing together a theory based on what little they know about Utsume’s past and his hobbies. Toshiya shares that Utsume’s fascination with the supernatural started back in first grade, when he and his brother simultaneously disappeared and Utsume eventually returned alone. This prompts Aki to discuss Utsume’s interest in legends involving kami-kakushi, supernatural beings that whisk children off to another world. It quickly becomes clear that Utsume was trying to pass a kami-kakushi off as his human girlfriend, in the vain hopes of pulling her fully into the human world and using her to bring back his long-lost brother.

Utsume’s circle of friends split up at this point to collect more information. Toshiya and Takemi consult with school’s resident occultist Yomiko, who puts them in touch with a psychic more familiar with the kami-kakushi world. Meanwhile, Aki and Ryoko discuss the situation with a priest/psychologist/paranormal investigator named Kijou, who’s not too optimistic about the situation. Nevertheless, the two groups collect information about Utsume’s whereabouts bit by bit, until Kijou is able to put together a plan for recovering him and stopping the kami-kakushi.

Though kami-kakushi are not Coda’s invention, Missing’s own twist on the existing mythology here is really engaging. Coda takes the existing “spirited away” phenomenon and builds it up into a literal struggle between worlds of light and darkness, replete with secret societies and complex rituals to keep the two worlds from collapsing into each other. It all sounds very over-the-top and ridiculous, and in retrospect it sort of is; but what ultimately drew me into the story were the small touches, ranging from passages taken from apocryphal books to Coda’s complex take on the ghost story as oral tradition. It’s these small things that lend Missing a sense of internal logic and form, giving me the reassurance that — as silly as some of the plot twists sound — it all makes sense within the confines of the novel’s world. For a book under 200 pages that’s seemingly aimed at high school students, Missing packs a surprising amount of depth.

On the other hand, I’m not as satisfied with the characters that Coda has populated his story with. Utsume is the prime offender, with personality quirks that seem to be there mainly as a way to pander to the teenaged goth demographic. In the end, he’s so totally standoffish and detached from all the people and events surrounding him that it’s sort of hard to sympathize with his friends for wanting him back. I found his friends more interesting in general, but their characterization comes off as forced; like clockwork, every few subchapters we get handed a chunk of their collective childhood histories without any real provocation or explanation. This probably would have sat better with me if Coda tied these tidbits back into the story in any way: the fact that, say, Aki is attracted to Utsume is interesting, but not really relevant to the plot at hand. It’s probable that these tidbits of personal history will pay off in future volumes, but at it stands it feels like Coda is clumsily dropping in trivia for trivia’s sake.

In Summary:
Overall, though, I do really like what Coda is doing here. The plot is intriguing; the writing is mostly solid; and even if I have some misgivings about the characters, at least it was more out of indifference than active dislike. The series is off to a promising start, and I’m really curious to see where he’s going to take it in the next volume. Recommended.

Content Grade: B
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: A

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Release Date: November 30th, 2007
MSRP: $7.99

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