With the climax of this series not too far away, this volume feels like a stall.

Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi Volume 8Title: Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi (Akaya Akashiya Ayakashi no)
Genre: Drama
Publisher: Media Factory (JP), Yen Press (US)
Artist: nanao
Writer: HaccaWorks*
Serialized in: Comic Gene
Translation: Jocelyn Allen
Original Release Date: September 26, 2017
Review copy provided by Yen Press.

Bonds. That’s the theme of Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi‘s eighth volume.

As the struggle for future of Utsuwa continues, Tougo reflects on his relationship with his mother Akane as well as her relationship with Yoshiki. Meanwhile, Yue and Akiyoshi try to rescue Tougo, and Kurogitsune struggles between his desire to keep Yue alive, his own friendship with Tougo, and his own hunger.

Many of us believe in (or like to believe in) bonds that can overcome anything, but I am reminded of one of the key themes of Fullmetal Alchemist: to obtain something of value, something of equal value must be lost. And since Utsuwa is currently at its breaking point, something must change. Will the ayakashi lose their hunting ground and main method of survival? Meanwhile, a mysterious figure confronts Tougo about Akane, bluntly saying she threw away Tougo and his father to be with Yoshiki.

This was already pretty much confirmed in previous volumes, but the figure does add a couple of new facts that will likely shake Tougo once he has time to process this information. And while Kurogitsune and Yue’s bonds are strained right now, the friendship between Yue and Akiyoshi is stronger than ever. My favorite scene in the entire volume is Akiyoshi stealing Yue’s mask because he knows the other boy is scared. By giving him a goal to concentrate on (getting his mask back), Yue doesn’t have to be so frightened, and plus Akiyoshi emphasizes that he’s not letting Fox Mask go on alone. It’s a wonderful contrast to the accusatory Akiyoshi from the beginning of the story. I also adored seeing how Kurogitsune has been — and still is — Yue’s big brother figure. I’ve always loved how the little fox has supported Yue, and we can see he takes great pride in doing so.

However, while character relationships are among the most important (and interesting) parts of a story, the problem with this volume is that it essentially boils down to two lines of dialogue:

“It’s not like that, right?”
“It’s like that, right?”

Almost the entire volume involves someone trying to insist to someone else that this is (or isn’t) how it is or supposed to be. “Your mother abandoned you!” “We’ll always be friends!” This, of course, is followed up by either “…” or “You’re wrong!”, but either way, it feels repetitive. Everyone knows the moment (well, moments) of truth is approaching, but Volume 8 feels like it’s stalling. Maybe it’s because I’ve become used to Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi revealing things very quickly? Other volumes gave several pieces to the puzzle surrounding Yue, his friends, and the town of Utsuwa. Here, one piece is barely acknowledged, and the other piece or two comes at the very end where Volume 9 will no-doubt pick up from.

With the manga approaching its climax, this also would have been a good time for some horror shots. Yue and Akiyoshi see the fates of the previous Yorishiro and mels, but the scene looks more like a collection of people sleeping on park benches than the location where their ultimate fates were decided. A couple of awkward images were also included, like one where Tougo is supposed to be physically be taken aback, but his body’s position looks even too off-centered to be falling down. Also, between Tougo’s flashbacks and Yue’s pursuits, Japanese shrines are even more abundant than usual. If you want an excuse to get drunk, take a drink every time you see a shrine arch. (On second thought, don’t do that. You’ll get alcohol poisoning.) I still like nanao’s style, but I hope the visuals get a little more daring as the characters fall into despair.

Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi is still an underrated gem, but I’ve come to expect more from the series. Yue’s friendships with Akiyoshi and Kurogitsune are the best part of Volume 8, but the characters spend just a little too much time reflecting on their relationships rather than actually doing anything.