Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi
あかやあかしやあやかしの (Aka ya Akashi ya Ayakashi no)
Nanao (art), HaccaWorks* (story)
Shoujo – Supernatural, mystery, drama
3 Volumes (ongoing) of 9 Volumes (complete)
The sheltered Yue and his companion, the black fox Kurogitsune, sneak off to visit a festival. There, Yue meets two boys, Tougo and Akiyoshi, who seem different from other people. The town’s guardian tells Yue that this means he is to prepare for the “meal” — by eating one of his two new friends!
Of the Red, the Light, and the Akayashi originated as a visual novel. Fortunately, you don’t need to have played the game to enjoy the manga adaptation.
The main plot of this series is Tokyo Ghoul-lite… very lite. This series is nowhere near as horror-filled as Tokyo Ghoul. But the idea of a food chain where humans are not on top is the same for both manga, and they both have a melancholy tone. However, I think a lot of people will pass on this series simply because it’s a shoujo title, and that’s a shame.
Yue lives at the local shrine with the shrine’s guardian Mikoto and her assistants. While most people just look like shadows to him, two in particular stand out to Yue: Tougo and Akiyoshi. Yue then decides he wants to be friends, but Tougo and Akiyoshi are none too keen on this random guy suddenly talking to them. Akiyoshi is particularly suspicious of the fox mask-wearing boy, as he can sense Yue is just not normal. Mikoto then tells Yue the reason Tougo and Akiyoshi seem different is because one of them is supposed to be his meal.
Yeah, that’s not a good way to start off a potential friendship.
But that’s not the only struggle in Of the Red, the Light, and the Akayashi. It’s obvious from the very first chapter Yue is not a normal boy, but hints abound that he is different from the “normal” ayakashi. The ayakashi have their own issues to deal with, and so do the “normal” people Tougo and Akiyoshi. Tougo is constantly attacked by spirits, and Akiyoshi has taken upon himself to watch over Tougo. (Might I mention that Akiyoshi and Tougo aren’t friends? So Tougo finds himself surrounded by two weirdos.) Tougo’s and Akiyoshi’s families also play a part in the manga. Having the boys’ families involved may seem strange, but it’s obvious as the story goes on that everything is connected. Everyone holds a piece of the puzzle to the town.
Despite being a mystery, much is revealed in these opening volumes. The series is one-third of the way through, and I feel like we learn a bit too much. The manga quickly answers a whole bunch of questions about:
- The town;
- Mystery Man;
- More about Tsubaki and Akiyoshi; and
- The reason Yue wears a fox mask.
There are still some puzzle pieces left to place, but I’m pretty sure I know how they fit together. However, if you dislike having to put up with loads of vague comments to drag the story out (*coughCLAMPcough*), then you’ll probably like how this manga unfolds.
While most shoujo manga involve a love story, this is not one of them. I am almost positive romance elements will come into play, but I don’t think it will involve the central characters. However, the series tugs at readers’ emotions in other ways. The main boys are not used to having friendships, and the complicated state of the world just adds to their apprehension. Mikoto wants to be a proper leader. Even the mystery man hints he’s not happy with the situation. The manga is full of drama, but everyone knows they need to take a step forward. Tougo doesn’t turn Yue away, Mikoto makes a decision, etc. This prevents the story from becoming nothing but sorrowful monologues.
Unfortunately, each volume looks on the short side. The page count is at to slightly below average (160 pages), but the actual books appear thinner. Combined with the MSRP of $13.00, the manga is likely to be overshadowed by more popular titles. If someone wants a horror manga, there’s Tokyo Ghoul. Supernatural romances? Kamisama Kiss or The Demon Prince of Momochi House. Friendships involving boys? Most sports manga. It’s too bad, as the actual story is very good. This is the type of manga that could be enjoyed by anybody. (It’s rated OT, but there’s no sexual situations or extreme violence.)
Part of the charm is thanks to the protagonist. Yue is one of those “my pace”-type characters. He has spent his life at the shrine, so he doesn’t know much about the world. (He doesn’t even know what money is!) Even when he is accused of being an evil ayakashi or learns the truth about himself, he doesn’t get angry. He takes everything in stride. Meanwhile, Akiyoshi is not only overprotective of Tougo, he is a stalker. Unlike most of these type of characters in non-gag manga, Akiyoshi hadn’t even talked to Tougo before Yue did. (This is why Akiyoshi is so jealous of Yue.) Fortunately, his annoyingness is toned down in the second and third volumes. Tougo starts off pretty moody, but we learn why later. (Plus, he’s surrounded by a couple of weirdos. It’s understandable why he’s disturbed sometimes.) As for Kurogitsune, I always like it when mascot characters actually support their companion. Kurogitsune actually feels bad for Yue being stuck at the mansion and helps him escape for a quick trip. When they are caught, Kurogitsune tries to take the blame. It’s very touching. This is a nice change of pace from snarky or useless companions.
Of course, the main cast is supported by many characters. Several members of Akiyoshi’s and Tougo’s families are shown, and we also get to see a bit of their school life. The guardian of the shrine Yue lives at, Mikoto, is a key character in the series. As you would expect of a guardian, she has many attendants and assistants. I was confused by the roles of some of her companions. Kurogitsune calls a couple of others brothers, but they are rabbits? And what are the other companions really? It’s confusing. I don’t know if they’ll play a big part in the future, but I liked the manga best when it centers on Yue, Tougo, Akiyoshi, and Mikoto (plus Kurogitsune).
Nanao’s art reminds me a bit of Mushishi and Natsume’s Book of Friends. This series has that wispy quality found in many other manga. This style still seems different with the few female characters and the abundance of spirits. Some of the character designs are pretty common (Akiyoshi is just a dark-haired glasses-boy with a surgical mask), but that comes from the game, not Nanao. Poor Kurogitsune is often hidden due to his stature. In addition, the light-haired characters all have the tendency to look the same. Since the manga is based on a visual novel, I don’t know how much of this is Nanao’s fault. The volumes include color inserts, and they look gorgeous. The fantasy scenes, however, really do steal the show. There’s one perfectly creepy image of dozens of eyes looking inside the school, and Mikoto really looks regal with her traditional miko outfit. When it’s just Yue and his “friends” talking, the art tends to be on the dull side since the other two have a tendency to just scowl. The fact that several characters have masks or other things blocking their faces means the range of expressions are more limited than for most manga characters. All in all, if you like pencil-like manga drawings, then you’ll like the art here.
Honorifics are used. A few translation notes are included in each volume, but they are pretty light. Words like “onigiri” are left untranslated. I would have like for the translator to elaborate on more about Japanese culture and really go into meanings. I mean, at first I wasn’t sure if “Miko-sama” was used as her name or as her title. Demon Love Spell had the Miko/miko pun, so this wordplay isn’t unheard of.
I also missed it the first time around, but the guy with the headphones’ family name is Tsubaki. It wasn’t until later that I realized his personal name is Tougo. I first thought the manga was using Japanese name order because he’s called “Tsubaki” more often than “Tougo”.
I remember feeling like the first volume feeling a bit more stilted or strange, but I didn’t really notice in the third. Better editing?
Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi draws you in to Yue’s world and conflict. If you haven’t already, take a chance and try it out.
The original game is unavailable in English. Fun fact: Yue is voiced by the same guy who did Tomoe of Kamisama Kiss.