Koichi Sakakibara is a student transferring into Yomiyama North Middle School because of his mother’s recent death. The school is located in a small town that isn’t used to outsiders, so his mother’s sister helps Koichi adjust to his new environment. Most importantly, she teaches him the unspoken and unbreakable rules, the most important of which is you must obey what the class decides at all costs. This rule becomes more important as Koichi begins to suspect that something is wrong. He figures out that all of his classmates are intentionally withholding information from him and purposefully ignoring a girl who sits in the back of the room… because there’s a curse. And then the deaths begin.
The curse isn’t explained all that well at first, but the characters discuss it often, so readers will have many chances to figure out what’s happening. Although this can be annoying at times, it is generally useful and helps the reader remember what is going on in the story. Even before the curse begins to claim its victims, this frequent discussion prepares the reader and minimizes the shock value of the victims’ deaths. After the first death, curse victims are primarily side characters to whom the reader has had no time to become emotionally attached. Unfortunately, this makes the deaths seem more insignificant as bodies begin to pile up.
The most detail in Kiyohara’s art is concentrated on characters’ faces and expressions, quite useful for scenes pertaining to the murders, during which emotion runs high. Violent scenes are drawn so that the “moment of impact” is obscured, but the aftermath is clear to see, including large helpings of blood. There are three sections of color pages that utilize neutral browns, blacks, whites to make the red stand out and emphasize the most haunting aspects of the series.
Warning: the murders in this manga can be very gory with plenty of visible blood. Dolls are a recurring motif, so if you find them unbearably creepy, you should avoid this series.
by Yukito Ayatsuji
Art by Hiro Kiyohara
Yen Press, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: OT (16+)