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Dark Gathering Vol. #01 Manga Review

5 min read
An unwilling magnet for the supernatural and a ghost-hunting little girl join forces to capture Japan’s most terrifying and dangerous spirits.

The first volume of this supernatural adventure doesn’t blow you away, but there’s potential there.

Creative Staff
Story and Art: Kenichi Kondo
Translation/Adaptation: Christine Dashiell
Lettering: Evan Waldinger

What They Say:
After a dangerous encounter with a malevolent spirit, Keitaro Gentoga wants nothing to do with the supernatural. Unfortunately for this reluctant ghost magnet, he’s stuck helping Yayoi Hozuki, a strange young girl who’s intent on capturing Japan’s most terrifying ghosts and ghouls.

Keitaro is ready to stop living as a shut-in. He’s starting university. He’s reconnecting with his childhood friend. He’s taking a tutoring job. And he’s not messing around with ghosts anymore. At least that’s what he thinks, until he finds out the elementary schooler he’s tutoring is an occult-obsessed genius who’s hunting down dangerous ghosts and won’t stop until she’s found the one that took her mom.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Keitaro Gentoga is trying to rejoin the world. He spent his high school years as a shut-in after an encounter with an evil spirit cursed his right hand and caused him to be particularly perceptive to the supernatural, he has been afraid to go outside. But now he is headed to university, and he is determined to return to living a normal life. He reunites with his childhood friend, Eiko, and is determined to leave the supernatural behind. He even takes on a tutoring job to make some extra money on the side. Things appear to be looking up.

Or so he thinks. Enter Yoyoi Hozuki, a little girl living with Eiko, and the girl he’s been assigned to tutor. The tutoring job is supposed to be straightforward, but the first thing Keitaro notices is that each of her eyes has two pupils, a condition that also makes her sensitive to the supernatural. She cannot see them quite as well as Keitaro can, but where Keitaro is determined to run from the supernatural, she is drawn to it, seeking to fight it where she can and seek the spirit that took her mother a year earlier. And so Keitaro enters an uneasy partnership with the strange girl, having to figure out how to get over his hang-ups while at the same time pondering this question: could it be that he is actually enjoying this?

I must admit, I had a difficult time warming up to Dark Gathering. It has only been one volume so far, and while there were some entertaining moments, there is not a whole lot happening in this first one that is really enticing me to find out what is coming next. I do not think that it is bad, but from a story perspective, it hasn’t really done anything for me to stand out from any of the other multitude of Shonen-style supernatural titles. It has been pretty generic. Keitaro is every unwilling, Shonen protagonist getting dragged into situations against his will but who will always rise to the occasion when needed; Eiko is every unbelievably cheerful childhood friend with a dark secret; and Yoyoi is your typical deuteragonist driven by her own dark past and who cannot be turned from the path she has chosen. The specifics might be a little different from title-to-title, but nothing Dark Gathering has done so far has made it stand out from the rest of the pack. Again, though, I do need to stress that I didn’t think it was bad, so if this genre is more up your alley, there’s probably a lot here to like, and there is certainly plenty of room to grow.

That said, from a design standpoint, Dark Gathering looks amazing. For starters, I like the character designs. To a certain degree, Keitaro and Eiko are pretty generic looking, but there is a certain flair to the art style that I can’t really describe that gives them their own unique look and personality. But the winner here is clearly Yayoi, as her double-pupils are equal parts fascinating and disturbing, a distinctive quirk that makes her otherwise normal goth style pop. She is the sort of character that should this manga take off could be an iconic one.

Beyond the character designs, however, where the art in this really shines is in the designs of the supernatural, both the spirits that appear throughout as well as the supernatural situations they find themselves in. The first phenomenon they investigate together is what is reported to be a haunted phonebooth. While there is nothing out of the ordinary at first, soon blood starts appearing all over the glass in splatters as if somebody is being hacked up. Even in black-and-white, that imagery really pops off the page in a way that sets an excellent horror mood. Their final investigation of this volume sees them checking out a haunted temple, and the moving statues and hordes of spirits that chase them are delightfully creepy. Frankly, the whole volume is. I approve.

In Summary
To this point, Dark Gathering is not a manga that has particularly grabbed my attention, at least, not from a story perspective. That doesn’t mean that it’s bad, but so far, it’s been very paint-by-numbers. I do really like the character designs—Yoyoi’s double-pupiled eyes have potential to be an iconic look—and there is some wonderful artwork in the spirits and some of the darker moments. But for all of the style, I found the substance to be a bit lacking. Again, it was not bad; it just didn’t do much to really grab my attention. That said, it is still early, and there are some nuggets in there here and there, so there is plenty of time for it to pick up, and if you enjoy these sorts of titles, you might find it more enjoyable than I did. Mildly recommended if you do like these titles. Thumbs in the middle, otherwise.

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

Age Rating: Older Teen
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: May 16, 2023
MSRP: $9.99

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