In Volume One, we learn that Hikaru is not what he seems when his best friend, Yoshiki, confronts him. It’s been six months since Hikaru went missing for a week. Yoshiki has been pretending everything is normal when he knows it is not. But he finally has the courage to ask who “Hikaru” really is.
The answer is that “Hikaru” doesn’t know exactly what he is, just that he took Hikaru’s body and has all of his memories. After an awkward conversation, Yoshiki decides that he still wants to be friends with this version of Hikaru. The reader follows the two as they explore their new friendship and feelings towards each other.
One day, Yoshiki runs into an adult woman who warns him that a terrible evil that used to keep other spirits our of their town has moved from its position within the forest. She can see that Yoshiki is somehow connected to it and cautions against further interactions. She gives him her number in case he wants to talk more about it and hints that she has some kind of experience with a similar situation.
In Volume Two, Yoshiki is concerned about some of the changes in his neighborhood and reaches out to the woman who warned him about continuing to be friends with Hikaru. Unfortunately, Hikaru finds out that Yoshiki is keeping secrets and overreacts when confronting Yoshiki with his feelings of abandonment. After the two reconcile, they work together to rid Yoshiki’s family’s bath of a wig monster and strengthen their bond over shared memories. And the reader learns more about their relationship from before as well as how Yoshiki knew about Hikaru’s secret identity.
This is a slow building horror story that contains elements of boys love. The pacing of the story is built around character development and the relationship between the two male characters. There are moments when the two are exploring their feelings for each other juxtaposed with Hikaru showing Yoshiki what he is. I mention the boys love aspect because of these interactions. It doesn’t look like this series is gearing up to be yaoi, which tends to be explicit sexual interactions; however, I found the two scenes (one in each book) where Hikaru invites Yoshiki to put his hand inside of his body akin to sexual activity even though it is not in the traditional sense. Trigger warnings include some body horror, death, and grief. Both volumes end in cliffhangers that are the middle of a scene. Volume two picks up right where volume one stopped and included context to reorient the reader.
The art style matches the slow building horror elements, using plenty of details in the characters and the backgrounds. The facial expressions capture a wide range of emotions from fear to wonder to frustration and understanding. Even the side character of a cat has great emotional range. Since the illustrations are all black and white, the creator used shading to convey things like nighttime, emotional turmoil, and the unknown entity that goes by Hikaru.
Not knowing what future volumes will include, I’d suggest placing this series in teen or adult collections and recommending it to mature readers that can handle the trigger warnings I’ve mentioned in this review. Fans of horror are going to love this series unless they are frustrated by the slower pace.
The Summer Hikaru Died
By Liz Mokumokuren
Yen Press, 2023
Vol 1 ISBN: 9781975360542
Vol 2 ISBN: 9781975371036
Publisher Age Rating: Teen
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)