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Reeling into Psychosis

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MPD-Psycho tells the dark and grisly story of Detective Yousuke Kobayashi, hot on a serial killer’s trail, but also suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder. The first volume is available from Dark Horse Manga priced at $10.95. Eiji Otsuka (Writer) Sho-U Tajima (Artist).

One of the biggest attractions of Manga is the fact that it showcases various work in various styles, in various genres. One of the genres where Manga excels is in horror, where blood and gore tends to be mixed with subtle and/or harsh psychological fear. We’ve seen this explode outside of Manga and into celluloid with Japanese horror or J-Horror, like The Ring and The Grudge series of horror films.

With that in mind, I came to read MPD-Psycho, a Dark Horse Manga release, bringing new Japanese horror to the printed page.

Released in the standard back-to-front format of Manga, MPD-Psycho tells the dark and grisly story of Detective Yousuke Kobayashi. MPD centers on the detective’s struggle with multiple personality disorder, while also hot on a serial killer’s trail, looking through clue after clue, until the killer strikes back, sending Kobayashi reeling into his own psychosis.

Forward to years later, Kobayashi is brought into a private criminal research lab to solve murder cases when the government can’t. A string of these cases, involving gruesome slayings, eventually lead to a connection with him and the mysterious Gakuso organization. All the murderers appear to have a bar code on their left eye and a string of connections between them and their victims, leading the reader to a gruesome conspiracy.

MPD-Psycho is extremely graphic, holding back no details in showcasing the horrors of the story. Sho-u Tajima's art, with its very clean and detailed style, gives a clear picture making the reader gasp with the turn of a page. Tajima doesn't flinch away from the brutal crime, but actually clearly pans into it, letting it be soaked in the composition of the panel. 

Tajima also injects a bit of dark humor and cartoon-like laughs into the graphic novel. In the scene when the boss is eating some "goat" a co-worker has prepared, he does so, only to find out that said co-worker is being arrested for being a cannibal. He also utilizes various bits of symbolism–one being dismemberment–in the victims, and even on the female detective lead, Machi Isono, who has severed fingers from a bomb explosion.

Dismemberment seems to be an overall theme in the story. Characters are either scarred  or mangled, physically or mentally. There are parts in the story when you think you know what is going on but the book has a good way of leading you elsewhere, only to surprise you with another conclusion.

At the same time MPD-Psycho lets questions hang in the air, giving space for other answers to truly breathe. The characters are believable, yet it’s odd how they seem to calmly live in a world full of highly grotesque serial murders. But I imagine that’s Otsuka and Tajima’s way of letting us be the ones that freak out.

This Manga is not for the faint of heart, but those who enjoy movies like Se7en or Dark Water will definitely appreciate this book. MPD-Psycho has a stark hard look at the world of serial killers, the people who chase them and the reality of Multiple Personality Disorder. This is all wrapped up into a series that will shock and awe but also entertain.

The book leaves you interested with enough clues and ideas to get you into reading the second volume. With the bar code on the eyes of various victims and killers, this could make the series lead into a more science fiction realm mixed with horror, making future books something to look out for.

You can also find a TV series based on the Manga, directed by Takashi Miike, that has received a lukewarm response. This is unfortunate because the Manga really delivers the psychological horror with the real gruesome aspects of serial killers, all the while keeping you turning the pages.

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