“Murcielago” may never get back to being its old, gloriously nasty self. Vol. 15 at least marks the closest it has come to being genuinely interesting after divesting itself of its shock tactics. After a chapter is taken to wrap up the events of the previous storyline, we bear witness to the next psycho’s gimmick as dozens of people tied together at their arms and legs are lifted into the sky as a human ladder. The serial entertainer known as the Comedy Writer is back, but before Kuroko and company can get involved, they decide to take the time to visit the circus. While everyone has a good time, tragedy strikes as the circus’ knife thrower throws a knife into the eye of a co-worker at lunch before passing out. When he wakes up, he remembers nothing. This kind of hypnosis was a key part of Comedy Writer’s act, and all signs seem to point to the circus ringmaster. The thing is that Kuroko’s not so sure it’s him. Don’t worry, though, she’s got a plan to flush out the real killer, whoever they may be.
Mangaka Yoshimurakana actually manages to set up a decent mystery regarding the identity of Comedy Writer in this volume. It’s twofold in the sense that the character was never unmasked when he ran his first series of “entertainments.” So we’re left wondering as to why he quit the first time and if he’s really back, or if someone has picked up where the original left off. Oh, and it also looks like the drug being used to hypnotize his “participants” is a different version of Cesare known as Francis. Which means that this story might have ties to the larger plot that’s been ticking along in the background. The series may have fully left behind its attempts to shock and dismay the reader, but Kuroko works well here as a protagonist who thinks she knows what’s really going on and is determined to have fun trolling the good and bad guys in this situation. I’ll admit that the setup here is done well enough to make a successful resolution to the storyline critical to its overall enjoyment. If it can pull it off, however, then “Murcielago” may wind up making the transition from “guilty pleasure” to “genuinely entertaining” after all this time.