Title: Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi (Aka ya Akashi ya Ayakashi no)
Publisher: Media Factory (JP), Yen Press (US)
Creators: Nanao (art), HaccaWorks* (story)
Translation: Jocelyne Allen
Release Date: March 22, 2016
Review copy provided by Yen Press.
Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi is also a visual novel released by the doujin group HaccaWorks. Fast forward a few years after its release, and HaccaWorks teamed up with doujinshi artist Nanao to adapt the game as a manga. In volume 1, Yue left the shrine where he leaves to sneak off to the festival. He meets two boys, and then he is told to choose one for the “meal.”
So here we are in Volume 2, a.k.a. the volume where most of the mysteries are revealed. Truth behind Mystery Man? Revealed. Why Yue wears a fox mask? Revealed. What “meals” are? Pretty much revealed. I had to double-check, but, sure enough, this series is not going to end next volume.
Let’s start at the beginning. Unusually, this volume opens up with a side chapter (5.5 to be exact). For those of you waiting to see Yue, Tsubaki, and Akiyoshi’s investigation of the missing principal, you first must go through flying goldfish and a little bit more about Mikoto, the miko. It’s a nice shorter chapter on its own, but “in-between” chapters usually fit better at the end of a volume, not the beginning.
As I mentioned, this volume explains quite a bit about the story’s world. Sure, there are a few things unresolved (Tsubaki and the pinwheel person), but I have a strong feeling I’ve already solved the puzzle. This is good if you are annoyed by, say, CLAMP’s approach where characters talk in code all the way up to the end. However, I’m not really sure where the story goes from here. Is it going to involve more fights against the akujiki, or will the story focus more on Yue’s mixed emotions about the meal? With so many plot points spoiled, it seems dangerous from a marketing perspective; readers could just wait for the final volume to see the ultimate outcome.
I didn’t really like the fact so many secrets are spelled out in this volume, but I was pleasantly surprised it didn’t feel like an info-dump. In between the revelations about the town and Yue’s identity, Kurogitsune’s brothers fight the Look-Alike, we meet flying goldfish, and the manga still finds time to get some bonding between Yue, Tsubaki, and Akiyoshi. It isn’t just a volume full of long-winded explanations. Akiyoshi in particular shows that he’s more than just a Tsubaki stalker and ayakashi hater. Of course, Yue’s conflict about eating his new friends is always at the back of his mind, but the manga keeps from being too somber with more humorous scenes like interviewing a cat. If the manga can keep up this level of storytelling, I won’t mind the lack of mysteries in future volumes. Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi just flows, drawing me in.
The volume isn’t without its faults though. I didn’t remember (or didn’t realize) that Kurogitsune’s brothers were rabbits. So are they really brothers, or does Kurogitsune just call them Brothers out of respect? Confusing. The manga also brings in quite a few characters that I don’t know whether they’re going to play a part or not. Is Hina calling her father “Yachiii” a hint of something or not? Will schoolmate Suzuki and his notes just disappear? The translation is also geared toward experienced anime and manga fans. Volume 2 includes only a few translation notes, leaving it up to the reader to know what words like “onigiri” and “neko” mean.
Since Nanao did not design the characters, I can’t really comment too much on that aspect. Some designs would have probably been different if Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi was first created as a manga. Kurogitsune’s face, for instance, is covered in bandages, and he is quite tiny. The combination of his stature and the bandages means it’s often hard to seem him and/or his expression. I’m sure it’s not really an issue in the original visual novel with character sprites, but here Kurogitsune often comes off as a black blob or swatch.
Anyways, the art has that wispy quality; it looks like a beautiful, pencil-drawn work. Nanao is even careful to include details like Mikoto’s ribbon’s bells. The shaded, grayish tones are pretty typical of supernatural manga (especially those focusing on spirits like foxes), but the manga still looks fresh. On the downside, appendages look thin. With vein lines, the characters’ hands and feet tend to make them look old (like senior citizens). The fight scenes also could use a little work. In one fight, the enemy is trapped by threads. Suddenly they’re gone and he’s bleeding? When did that happen? I’m hoping the manga doesn’t include too many battles, as imagery of the “other” people as foxes and Mikoto’s beauty just plain outshines fights between sticks and umbrellas.
Overall, I enjoyed this second volume of Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi. Yue’s struggle about the “meal” reminds me a bit of a shoujo (and much less violent) version of Tokyo Ghoul crossed with the supernatural aspects of Kamisama Kiss or Inu x Boku SS. While I might have learned a bit too much about Yue and the others in a single volume, I am looking forward to see what Yue does as he grows closer to his new friends and faces outside threats.