On a school field trip, Mitsuo, Hasunuma, and new friend (and, of course, potential beau) Ichi are all staying at a creepy old inn with a few too many ghost stories for Mitsuo’s comfort. At first the spirits seem harmless — stacking pillows in pyramids — but then an urban legend of death after 100 hiccups starts circulating. Mitsuo, struck with sudden insomnia, starts getting nightly bouts of the hiccups accompanied by a ghost casually counting off each one as the hours pass. Panicked, Mitsuo tries anything and everything to stop his hiccups — but what if he hits 100? What will stop his hiccups in time? In the second tale, Hasunuma keeps trying to get across his true feelings for Mitsuo, taking any excuse to elicit attention and preferably embraces from Mitsuo. Mitsuo is not quite so oblivious, but definitely confused, as is Ichi, the third point of this little triangle, who has felt drawn to Mitsuo ever since he helped him with his own ghostly problems. When they all become the targets of the vengeful ghost of a suicide, and a wild attack separates Hasunuma’s spirit from his body, Mitsuo and Ichi must entreat a local priest for help.
The combination of comedy and tragedy in this volume make it some of the series’ best plots, but at the same time, the introduction of the priest Mikuni raised some issues for this reader. Hasunuma’s overzealous affection is more forgivable as one, Hasunuma never pushes too far, and second, his cuddling comes from an honest desire to be close to Mitsuo. Mikuni is a different kind of man. At times, Mikuni is an accomplished, friendly, and expert exorcist as well as a knowing observer of his younger comrades. At other times, he’s a lech and heartless manipulator, using his powers to take sexual advantage of attractive teens. Most puzzling are the other characters’ reactions to him — while Hasunuma, as the victim of Mikuni’s forceful seduction, never trusts Mikuni, everyone else lets his behavior slide and treats him as friend.
I found this the most difficult part of the story to let go, even though the rest of the series is more engaging than any paranormal soap opera has a right to be. Once again, I’d run smack into the cultural divide between how the authors view sexual power and humor versus how I view such situations. This trend continues to be treated as humor as the stories continue. Once reading within this universe, all of the skewed dynamics become a part of the set up and thus easier to swallow, but once you return to the real world, the dismissal of domination and force is troubling. As with Gravitation, it’s difficult to figure out just what readers may unconsciously take away from these stories.