And so, here is our review of Corpse Party: Book of Shadows! In three parts. (This covers the whole omnibus, so basically it's spoilers all over the place.)
Let's get this review written so I can put Corpse Party firmly out of my mind. You know, when our editor asked us to do the sequel, we were like, "Of course! We know the curse isn't completely eradicated--we have to see it wiped out!" And we had forgotten that Corpse Party is actually pretty draining, and that there's a very good reason for that. Nevertheless, we were buoyed up by the fact that Corpse Party: Blood Covered was one of the easiest translations we've had in a long time. Unfortunately, Book of Shadows is not by the same manga artist, and the length of the script reveals that text density is, in fact, higher. And while we were translating it, we were reminded just how gory this series can be! Yay.
Okay, so this is one of many sequels to Corpse Party. Our research reveals that there were two other manga series between Blood Covered and Book of Shadows, which had us a little worried about continuity, but it looks like everything is nonlinear so it doesn't matter anyway. And writing that sentence, I realized that another source of our complacency may be the fact that "Book of Shadows" sounds a lot less gruesome than "Blood Covered." Do not let it fool you.
Anyway, as with Blood Covered, I think I should present these reviews in summary form. We start out meeting Sayaka Ooue, whose name is very difficult to spell in any way that makes sense to a native English speaker with no familiarity with the Japanese language. We opted to match what the fans had been going with (some of the Corpse Party games have made it to the States, but nothing in our research indicated that Book of Shadows was one of them, or that Sayaka features in any of the games that have). She invites her best friend Naho Saenoki (rings a bell, right?) to be on her radio show about scary stories, and during the recording (it's an internet radio show, so I don't think it was live, but maybe...?), Naho's attention is focused on the corner, where she claims there's no ghost, but there totally is. Why? Because this takes place after Naho got possessed by Sachiko, and sure enough, she's the ghost.
I don't know if that all is significant, but what IS significant is that now Naho's beloved Kou Kibiki has gone off to Tenjin Elementary School without her, and she is desperate to save him...after posting instructions on her blog to get all her fans trapped in the school, too. They made it seem like she was thinking rationally when she did it, but I dunno. But the point is she gets Sayaka to do the charm with her so they can go to the school, and it wasn't until we joined Sayaka by herself in the school's basement that I remembered that oh yeah, the curse also places friends in separate dimensions. We thought maybe Sayaka would be okay if she had a crush on Naho, but I guess they decided one yuri relationship was enough. Also, there was mention of an Inumaru-kun later. Anyway, she got killed. But before that, she ran into some pretty horrific events, and that's where the manga reminded me how scary it is. I thought I could handle the violence (I couldn't), but before it got too bloody, there were maggots! Ewwwwwwwwww! Maggots are kind of a deal-breaker for me, partially because of Higurashi, and partially because they really are just ewwwwwww. And then there was...Yoshikazu brought a girl into the room, and Sayaka was like, "Oh good, she's alive," and we were both like, "No, it's going to be worse! It would be better if she were dead!" And we were right. This is the kind of series that makes us wonder if everything's okay in the mind of the person who came up with this stuff.
Anyway. Sayaka got out of that mess, but she got killed later. There was a focus on the chocolate her mom gave her, which makes me think it will be significant, but I guess we'll find out later. And great, now my neck is itching. (<--Higurashi reference.)
So Naho discovered Sayaka's corpse, with its face smashed in, and that made us think, "Great! Now she can be Steel Lady Nanase!" (<--In/Spectre reference) Only with a sledgehammer this time. We need to joke about it or we'll never make it through. And then we cut to Naomi and Seiko. What? Seiko's alive? And Naomi's having deja vu? You mean we're going to go through this all again? Oh, boy. Why do all Japanese horror series involve time loops? Okay, it's actually a good thing, because then hopefully you can save everybody instead of leaving them all dead. Also, visual novel style games do tend to involve time loops and multiple endings. I thought that was mostly a love sim thing, but apparently it's also a horror game thing.
Fortunately, this manga artist did a pretty good job of covering all the important information without giving a full replay of everything that led up to Seiko's death in Blood Covered. We got the readers' digest version (Mayu is still dead, in case anyone is wondering). But this time, since Naomi is having deja vu, she's thinking she can stop it! And she does! She manages to rescue Seiko from hanging in the bathroom! Yay! But when Seiko sees her, she runs off screaming and falls into a trap that decapitates her. Aw, darnit. The important scene that I skipped over is the one where Naomi, unable to find Seiko and desperate to prevent her suicide, meets Sachiko who says, "I'll help you find your friend if you do what I say." And those of us who read Blood Covered know that it was actually Sachiko who... well I wouldn't want to spoil it if you haven't read Blood Covered. I'm sure they'll cover that part in Book of Shadows, too.
So then we flash forward to when Naomi is back home, and no one remembers Seiko, but she insists Seiko exists, and she's upset because no one believes her that Seiko was a real person and they treat her like a crazy person, and we're like, "Then how about you stop acting like a crazy person?" And I mean like, someone who needs extensive psychological help (everyone has their idiosyncrasies that other people think of as crazy), who stands in her dark bedroom all day, staring into the corner and never leaving. And then bashing her fists against the wall and yelling at everything when somebody says, "You know she's not real, right?" Really, I think it's that kind of behavior that had people thinking she should get some kind of professional help, more than the, "She existed, okay!" thing. On the other hand, she's almost certainly suffering from survivor's guilt and PTSD, so if people knew what she went through, then they'd understand. I guess this is where Satoshi and Ayumi have to step up, since no one else can believe her.
Fortunately, Ayumi has a plan! She has tracked down Sachiko's home address--you know, the house where Naho got possessed to begin with. What could possibly go wrong there? But I admit, if they want to do anything about this curse, they're going to have to face the danger. Hopefully Ayumi's Shinozaki blood will give her a bit of an advantage that Naho didn't have. So now she and Naomi are about to go there and look for clues. My guess is that they're going to find the "book of shadows" (which, if the extra artwork is anything to go by, is bound in human skin, because of course it is), and the book of shadows is going to have some spell in it that lets them go back in time and repeat stuff. I also want to point out that when they did the charm this time, Satoshi was very much against it, which means he was having the deja vu, too. Ayumi probably was, too, and she might have even known why, but she would be determined to save everybody...and I'm hoping that means not just her friends, because obviously the best way to save them would be to not do the stupid charm to begin with.
Anyway, that's the story. I kind of hope the book of shadows thing explains how Sachiko got to be SUCH a powerful evil spirit, because the story about how she died doesn't necessarily adequately explain the extent of the curse. I guess we'll find out!
This is the volume of Corpse Party that had us going, "Okay, I think I've had about enough of this. Let's be done now, kthxbai." The first series was pretty gory, but it was still interesting, and we wanted to get everybody out of this mess, so we wanted to keep going. Then in the first volume of this one (or the first part of this omnibus), it looked like they were going to save even more people, so it was like, "Oookay, you somehow managed to surpass the gross factor from the previous series, but I'll stick with it because I want you to save all the people who died." But then this volume came along and it was just like, okay, please just stop.
It starts out well enough. Ayumi and Naomi are in Sachiko's home village, in search of her old house. We were a little apprehensive about what horrors might await them there, but apparently there aren't that many, because most of the rest of this volume was back inside Tenjin Elementary School, where we got to see the new and "improved," extra gory version of Mayu's death, as if her death wasn't bad enough to begin with. Although the way it happened in this version does remind me of a very, very, very bad joke Gaston once told us (or was it Sanzo?) about how many babies it takes to paint a wall. WHY DO PEOPLE COME UP WITH THESE THINGS!?
Anyway, so Ayumi and Naomi are trying to find the Shinozaki home, but conveniently, they don't have the exact address, which gives them plenty of time to learn how creepy the village is, and instill more creepiness in its residents by letting them know what they're up to. That part's actually pretty confusing, because the village seems to be pretty wary of the Shinozakis, which is pretty reasonable when you consider the fact that Sachiko is practically pure evil. On the other hand, maybe we're supposed to think they're somehow in league with the Shinozakis? Or maybe, since the whole setup of everything indicated that the Shinozakis weren't evil until after they died, it was the village that killed them or something, through curses or something, because we already know exactly who killed them physically. Maybe that will be clarified by the time we're done with this. But pretty much all we get to find out for now is that there's exactly one guy in the village who doesn't freak out and gives them a ride to the Shinozaki house.
Then we go back to Tenjin Elementary School, and see the aforementioned death of Mayu. Then it flashes back further to when Mayu was alive, and she's noticing the marks that indicate she's going to die and stuff. This is what makes it so frustrating. We already know that she died, and we already know how she died, but we also already know that this is a repeat of what happened, which means technically it could turn out differently, and it is in fact different, but still the same! It's like, "Hey, we're going to show you how they might not die, only just kidding, they're going to die." And then! they introduce new characters just so we can get to know them and like them before killing them in horrible, brutal ways. That's why we get to meet Nana, who, we realized at the time of her second death, we'd already seen in this series, back when Sayaka was hiding. So we get to see that lovely aftermath again.
But this is where we get something that makes it a little bit more worth it, because we get to see Mayu's thought process, and more into who she is and what she thinks of herself. But really, we'd just rather have everybody not die, so we're really hoping that Ayumi and Naomi fix everything, and don't just go inside the Shinozaki house and get killed.
In the meantime, we're stuck at Tenjin. Now that Mayu is dead, we shift...oh wait, there WAS something else! Mayu and Yoshiki end up working together in this version, and they find Ayumi in the reference room, possessed by who knows how many ghosts, and one of them starts treating Yoshiki like a brother, so he flashes back to his own little sister. But since the ghost sees him as her brother, is it really her? Did she disappear mysteriously, too? We know Seiko's mother disappeared mysteriously, but everyone remembered her. Mostly I just like Yoshiki, so I'm happy to learn more about him.
Anyway, the focus shifted to super creeper Sakutaro, before he turned into a super creeper. It kind of gives the story of his descent into madness, but since the timeline is off from the original version, we find it untrustworthy. Or maybe, since it went slower this time, that means that the repeating is having some positive effect? Hope springs eternal. Anyway, I guess the point was to show how he went from normal but unfeeling to creepily obsessed with dead bodies. It even maybe almost made sense...although, actually, it probably made a lot of sense, because there were indications the the Darkening or ghosts had something to do with it. Obvs.
And, because we still haven't killed enough people, he meets Taguchi...who was unique in that we didn't get to see his brutal death. It was kind of annoying, though, because I felt Taguchi was being very reasonable when he decided to keep a record of everybody who died, because, y'know, their families might like to know what happened to them and stuff, but Sakutaro's like, "Ew, he's a jerk who films dead bodies. I don't want to work with him." Of course, he ended up much worse... It's like what Yato said to Yukine in volume three of Noragami. But that was a long time ago, so we don't remember it exactly.
We also meet some friends of good old Yuuya Kizami, our favorite psychopath from Blood Covered. And we got to know them before Yoshikazu came along and started smashing people with his sledgehammer. There they were, talking, and suddenly you turn the page and WHAM!, there's Yoshikazu. And we were like, "(monotone) Oh. Guess I should have seen that coming." He leaves before finishing the job, but then Yuuya comes along and he's more than happy to do it for him. Great. So he kills the one guy, and then he kills the girl, which was especially great, because, since Sakutaro had been talking to her mere moments before her death, and she was being all freaked out and screaming, her body gave him just the right kick in the head to jumpstart the super creeper mode. But Mayu's body is still his favorite. And right before we cut away and (finally!) go back to Ayumi and Naomi, he hears her voice. We'll see if it has the same results as last time. More likely he'll find a much more disturbing way to die.
Now, finally back in whatever village Ayumi and Naomi are in, and they hike up the trail to the Shinozaki home, which *gaspies* was also a clinic, and *more gaspies* had mysteriously vanished. Instead, there's a shed. After some investigation, they go back to find that the guy who drove them there has disappeared, but it's getting dark and cold, and the car is locked, so they decide it's better to wait inside. They go back to the shed...which has transformed into an old house! Dun dun DUN! And they decide to go inside. To be continued...
Then there's an extra story about Ayumi crushing on Satoshi while Yoshiki crushes on her. The end.
I just want to finish this review and be done with this series, oh my goodness, it was dumb. I don't even care about retelling it anymore. There was a repeat of the Yuuya angst, only this time we get into his head a little bit when he's not killing Yuka, about how he actually feels sorry for her which is like this huge thing for him because apparently he's never actually cared about another human being before. This isn't surprising given his backstory.
And we meet more of the kids from Yuuya's school, which has us thinking that the whole thing about all the kids from Kisaragi Academy being sent to parallel dimensions must have been an extra special thing for them, because seriously, everyone from Byakudan was together. That ghost that told Naomi she was lucky to be with her friend was either lying or part of a plot point that the series creators later decided to ignore. (I think that's an important thing for viewers/readers who get confused by certain story elements to remember. It's not necessarily the creators trying to be deep or confusing; sometimes they ignore or forget their own rules.)
Anyway, there was one kid who got caught in a trap, so the other kids decided to see if they could find a way out before putting everyone in extra danger to carry him around (he couldn't walk anymore), but before they could do that he died, and his best friend was all, "No, he's not dead!" and the other girl was like, "He IS dead, and we have to leave him here or we'll all die!" and his friend is like, "No, he's not dead!" and Yuuya was like, "*kicks dead friend down the stairs* He's dead. Let's go." And then BOTH of the other kids are like, "Oooohhh noooooo! He's a murderer! He's a homicidal maniac! Run awaaaaaay!" And they weren't wrong, but he hadn't actually killed anyone yet, and at least the girl who said the one kid was dead should have not thought of him as a murderer per se. I mean, sure get mad at him for kicking the body down the stairs (it's disrespectful), but if you were so sure he was dead, then that would not make Yuuya a murderer.
Well, as you might expect, that's what sent Yuuya into his murderous rampage, and that's where we are when we meet him back in, you know, wherever it was we first met him. And he starts by killing the girl who obviously has a crush on him, so that was a bummer, and then he ate her tooth, which is something I really can't figure out. And apparently she had a terrible diet that ruined her teeth and he had amazing dental hygiene, because he was also able to chew the tooth before swallowing it. Or maybe the evil powers of Tenjin Elementary School made his teeth harder. I don't know, it didn't make any sense. But working on Land of the Lustrous, you think a lot about the hardness of minerals, and it hurts our teeth just thinking about it. Yuck.
Now that we're done with the flashback, we go back to Yuuya and Yuka, and in this version of the story, Satoshi never shows up to save her, so Sachiko has Yoshikazu kill her, but he doesn't; he frees her instead. So Sachiko just has to go play with her a different way, and it was just...at first it was like, "Oh, maybe Sachiko will bond with Yuka and start to be nice!" Should have known better, really. Long story short, Sachiko kills Yuka, but she doesn't lock it in, so Yuka still has a chance of surviving Tenjin Elementary School.
Then we had a pretty cool flashback story about Yui's encounter with Yoshie back when she was going to high school. There was a boy that she was in love with, and he showed up to save her, and he said he'd explain later, but then Yui wakes up in the nurse's office and he tells her it was just a dream. I'm really curious about what his deal is. There was also a mysterious old woman who warned Yui not to go to the school when she did, and she was the one who ultimately drove off Yoshie's ghost. No idea who she is, either. And it's probably this one chapter that makes me still care about finding out more about this series.
Finally, we go back to Ayumi and Naomi and find out that this little story arc was not designed to help anything get better at all period. So that was fun. Ayumi finds the Book of Shadows, and there's a spell for raising the dead, so she's like, "Aha! This is what we've been looking for!" and Naomi's like, "Are you sure that's a good idea?" And we're like, "What could possibly go wrong?" Seriously, by now they really should have figured out that they are, in fact, in a horror story, and that this isn't a happy little healing spell like you find in magical girl anime or fantasy RPGs. And unless you're in one of those stories, spells to bring back the dead are almost guaranteed to go wrong, and if you're in a horror story, the odds go up one thousand percent. But they do it anyway, and surprise surprise, it doesn't work. And now, because casting evil spells always requires some kind of a sacrifice, the spell fires back at Ayumi and they can't stop it and right as it's about to cut her head off...Ayumi's sister comes and saves the day! Huzzah!
So it looked like it might at least not have a terrible ending, but then the sister's head flies off and the end.
See? It was dumb.
After that, we told ourselves that we were going to have to turn down any more of this series if Yen Press decided to offer it, but then our resolve was shaken by two things. First, in Makoto Kedoin's afterword, he said that it was just leading up to the final arc, where everything really will be resolved (although not necessarily in a happy way, come to think of it). And second, in Mika Orie's afterword, she said that Book of Shadows was the most gruesome and violent of all the Corpse Party series. So we thought, "In that case, I think we could handle one more arc," but I'm really not sure if it's a good idea. As far as we know, there's not a manga version of it (yet) anyway. I guess we'll decide whether or not to cross that bridge when we come to it.
Oh man, this series. At least we amuse ourselves in the retelling. We went to Universal Studios a couple of days ago, and it got mentioned at a couple of attractions that they're known for their horror movies, and I was like, "The stories might be pretty interesting on some of those!" but reviews like this remind me why we don't look too deeper into that.
Anyway! For this week's releases, we have just one. The eighteenth and final volume of Say I Love You. We did most of the first draft for that one while waiting for a flight in Narita Airport.
And tune in next week, for our review of the first volume of My Brother the Shut-In! A series that snuck up on everyone, including us! (To give you an idea of how sneaky it was, we actually translated it after we got back from Japan on that trip where we were working on Say I Love You in the airport, and we still have four other reviews to post between Shut-In and Love You.)
We may be back later if work permits, but for now, I'm thankful for being done posting about Corpse Party, the reviews being lighthearted enough to not set a creepy tone for the day, having more pound cake to look forward to, Christmas tree lights, and getting to watch The Seven Deadly Sins again.