The Secret of Kanae
“Hanako and the Terror of Allegory” is a series that started out on a weak note, but keeps getting better with every volume. Artist Sakae Esuno (Future Diary) has moved away from the panty-gags from the first volume, and is positioning the series as a horror-comedy rather than a comedy-horror. Esuno has a real talent for visual horror, and I love seeing his interpretations of popular Japanese urban legends. There was a clever nod in the volume when a thinkly-disguised Ge ge ge no Kitaro showed up as well, which I really enjoyed.
Volume three picks up right after the cliff hanger of volume two, where Allegory Detective Aso has transformed completely into an allegory to do battle with the powerful Kokkuri. With Kokkuri’s ability to predict the future, Aso seems to stand no chance. Also, as the battle is being chatted about live on the internet, the two are creating more folklore as they go, adding power to the belief-driven allegory of Kokkuri.
Can he win? Well, of course he can, or the series wouldn’t continue. Thanks to some quick thinking by Hanako of the Toilet the day is saved, but the battle makes Aso realize how dangerous it is getting the human Kanae involved in his battles against the allegories. Aso must decide if protecting Kanae is too much of a liability, or if he needs to push her away for her own good. But Kanae has secrets of her own, and Aso discovers that pushing her away might be pushing her even further towards danger, with no one to protect her.
The thee allegories (urban legends) in volume three were the Gap Girl, Red Paper/Blue Paper, and Merry-san. The creepiest of these was the Gap Girl, a phantom said to hide in the spaces between bookshelves and walls, and is responsible for that eerie feeling you get of someone watching you when you are home alone. I thought combining the Gap Girl with a shut-in who never left his room was brilliant, and the ending took me by surprise. Red Paper/Blue Paper is a legend about sitting alone in the bathroom, when a voice whispers “Red paper or blue paper?” to which either answer is deadly. Finally, Merry-san is a vengeful doll who resents being thrown away in the trash by an owner who has outgrown her, and comes back to take her revenge.
The Merry-san story really pumps up the violence, and there was one scene in particular that was downright disturbing. I haven’t seen anyone draw horror as well as Esuno, and it is nice to know I can still get the chills from a comic book.