Saturday, 30 June 2018

Yami no Bansosha

Despite seeming, on the face of it, to be a murder mystery, this drama series is partly a lover letter and partly heartfelt plea to the manga industry to sort itself and be special again.

It’s the sequel to Yami no Bansousha, a 2015 drama, and the story revolves around the mysterious death of an editor-in-chief of a regular manga comic. Maverick manga editor Daigo Shinji is brought in to continue his work and before long he meets up with his old-time partner in crime, Mizuno Yuki and the two of them work together to uncover the truth.

And it's a fairly twisty tale. If the first Yami No Bansosha was about solving crimes with the physical manga itself giving clues, the second one focused on the industry, the history and the black market for artwork.

But, weaved in between all of this, was a constant call for the manga industry to rediscover its past glories. It was kind of heart-breaking to watch as Daigo Shinji insisted that manga used to be important and it could be again, if only it could reconnect with its audience.

The mysterious death itself was a tangle of different crimes, none of which seemed to add up to much. In the end, it was thanks to a previously unknown witness to the crime that some kind of movement towards a solution became apparent.

While there's a lot to enjoy in this series: the directing, the chemistry between the two lead characters and the never-ending reveal of new clues, the overall feeling was a bit messy and lacked focus. The murder mystery often took second place to evangelizing about manga, with the victim being a sort of metaphor for the industry.

Plus, the inclusion of Kamishibai (old fashioned street story-tellers) in the mystery was clearly meant as an example of a form of entertainment that failed in the face of new technology and became obsolete: a fate that some think that manga is facing now.

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