Comic Picks By The Glick

MPD-Psycho vol. 10

December 8, 2011

Longtime readers will know that I’ve banged the drum quite loudly this year in getting people to pick up vol. 13 of “Eden:  It’s An Endless World!” when it arrived after a two-year wait.  It’s not the only Dark Horse Manga series to have gone on “hiatus” as their catalogue is littered with titles that deserve to be finished (“Reiko the Zombie Shop,” “Satsuma Gishiden,”) and can probably stay incomplete (“Octopus Girl”).  The reason I haven’t been hyping up the release of this volume after an even longer wait (two-and-a-half years) is because “MPD-Psycho” is somewhere in the middle of that pack.  It’s certainly the lesser Eiji Otsuka title (the other being “The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service”) from this publisher.  Also, any title that Dark Horse does decide to bring back has to overcome a certain burden in my book these days...

Anyway, the initial focus in “MPD-Psycho” was on Kazuhiko Amamiya, the “multiple personality detective” of the title, as his condition was triggered after a traumatic incident involving his girlfriend. From there, it looked like the series would have him investigate bizzarely violent crimes while matching wits against the machinations of the mysterious group known as “Gakuso” who want to revive a counterculture icon known as Lucy Monostone.  I can’t quite decide if this is a good thing, but I can’t help but marvel at how the current setup of the book has mutated/drifted so far from that initial premise.  Amamiya is no longer around in body, but the last few volumes have seen a virtual game of hot potato played with his mind as it currently resides in the body of unrepentant teen killer Tetora Nishizono.  Meanwhile, our protagonists are now hapless detective Sasayama and his diminutive partner Tenma who have a kind of anti-chemistry in the way that they’re forced to work together after they become embroiled in unraveling Gakuso’s legacy even though they don’t like each other very much.  Now I say “legacy” because the group is all but disbanded with its tools being picked up by Prime Minister Onihigata who seeks to create a morally and racially pure Japan.

It’s a lot to digest and you’d probably have better luck following a random volume of “Uncanny X-Men” than to try and jump on board the series at this point.  That’s also because the overall plot has the feel of late-era “X-Files” about it as well.  Anyone who has seen the last few seasons of that series should have an idea about what I mean.  You know, when it got to the point where the overriding “conspiracy” plot became too big for itself and you realized that not only was there no real direction to it, but that we were never going to get any satisfying answers as well.  That’s the feeling I get from all of the Gakuso/Amamiya/Lucy Monostone/Onihigata business in the main plot.  It’s not the main focus, but it plods along in the background as a distraction here.

Regrettably, this has been the case for the past few volumes.  So why do I keep reading it?  That’s because the series has, if nothing else, an entertaining surface.  The art from Sho-U Tajima has always been consistently interesting in the way black and white contrast under his pen, and the man has a real talent for not only dressing his characters fashionably, but giving them expressive body language as well.  You’ve also got the creative violence which has been a part of the series since the beginning.  Anyone who has read the first volume will be hard-pressed to forget the “flowerpot girls” even if they wanted to.  In this volume alone we see the bloody aftermath of a seminary slaughter, glass shards slicing people after a brazen act of terrorism, and a recurring motif involving a bloody woman wearing a bear mask.

This volume is also more readable than others in the series due to the fact that most of the action involves a nice little self-contained arc.  It centers around former Public Security Chief Kitou finding out his true purpose in life and orchestrating a murder in order to validate his existence.  Though Kitou’s circumstances will seem familiar to a regular patron of science fiction (or anyone who as seen Michael Bay’s “The Island”) his feelings come through loud and clear and serve as a relatable anchor for the reader in the chaos that is this series.  While his plan has Sasayama and Tenma predictably trying to find a way for everyone to survive, it also has the interesting effect of getting Tetora to use his powers for “good,” such as it is.

Though Kitou’s arc is wrapped up by the end of the volume, there’s a twist involving one of the series’ core cast that happens on the last few pages.  Unfortunately it’s hard to care too much about it, or the various teasers for the next volume when I have no idea when -- or even “if” -- we’ll see another volume.  If vol. 10 sells well enough for us to get caught up to the Japanese release, then good for it.  However, that “burden” I mentioned at the end of the first paragraph is that any new volume from a series formerly on hiatus has to be good enough to make me glad that resources were spent on its release as opposed to getting a new volume of “Eden.”  As you may have guessed, that doesn’t happen here.

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