The previous volume teased this one as promising the most “taboo” content yet. Given how this series has played out so far, that came off as much of a threat as a promise. While it’s hard to say whether or not this is the envelope-pushing-est volume of the series to date, following one that focused on a child serial killer is a tough act to follow, it did deliver a few scenes that managed to get under my skin due to their sheer unpleasantness. That takes a lot to do these days but the problem here is that the scenes in question don’t add a whole lot to the story at hand.
Vol. 6 starts off classily enough with color pages featuring Kuroko getting it on with the single mother whose kid was kidnapped in the previous volume. Things quickly shift to “refocused” serial killer Rinko’s first day at her new elementary school, which is in the same campus as Hinako’s junior high, and a high school as well. While it looks like Rinko is only going to have to worry about normal school drama, a bomb goes off at the high school and Kuroko is called in to investigate. As the culprit has contacted the police to say they’ll set off more bombs if anyone leaves the campus is now on lockdown. It’s an all-girl campus so Kuroko plans to take her time investigating every last one of them.
At least, that was her plan until her contact Ukina delivers some incriminating video that immediately identifies the culprit. Kuroko being Kuroko, she doesn’t immediately round her up and hand the girl over to the police. No, Kuroko decides to get to the bottom of why this girl did what she did -- it involves bullies -- and dish out her own brand of justice along the way. It’s a good thing she decides to do that too because they probably never would’ve found the second bomber otherwise…
Bullies are always a great go-to villain for any story set in a school since they’re really easy to hate and seeing them get what’s coming to them will likely make any reader happy. The only problem a creator has to watch out for is in delivering a punishment so severe to the bullies that the reader will start feeling sorry for them.
Guess what happens to the bullies in this volume of “Murcielago.”
That Kuroko’s opening assault that consists of deflowering one of them using an umbrella is bad, but still within the boundaries of the kind of content I’ve come to expect from this series. What she does next, is not. It’s a sequence of such utter brutality that’s completely in character for her and extremely upsetting to see on the page. You might be inclined to think that this is manga Yoshimurakana’s commentary on how we want to see bullies get their comeuppance by ways of violence. Then you’ll recall how the series has played out up to this point and realize that the whole scene is being played for, admittedly effective, shock value.
The upsetting stuff doesn’t end there though. There’s more schoolgirl-on-schoolgirl violence immediately following that scene and some scenes later on in the volume where Kuroko successfully coerces one girl to give into her desires for murder and rape. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, we get a thankfully brief scene which shows us that while Rinko’s impulses have been refocused towards something more beneficial to society she still feels the need to cut up corpses. It’s all very unpleasant stuff and yet still compelling in its own way because it breaks through my jaded expectations and goes to places I wasn’t expecting. I didn’t exactly want to go to these places, but the series hasn’t triggered me yet.
A bigger problem with all of the shocking stuff here is that it doesn’t feel necessary to the story at hand in this volume. “Murcielago’s” boundary-pushing nature added some uncertainty to the outcome of the previous volume and its macabre touches turned it into an effective urban horrorshow. That’s not the case here as the mad bomber plot comes off as lightweight even by this title’s standards. You’ll certainly remember all of the awful stuff that happens around it, maybe even try to scrub your brain out afterwards, yet the story they feature in is pretty forgettable.
I do wonder if people still reading “Murcielago” at this point are doing it because of the shock-value stuff that Yoshimurakana keeps pushing in each volume or in spite of it. My guess would be the former because as awful as these moments can get, they’re still the most memorable part about the series. Which could spell trouble for the upcoming storyline as it looks to introduce the mastermind behind a lot of the plots Kuroko has either foiled or been involved with up to this point. Will he finally make the series worth reading because of its storytelling as opposed to its constant need to shock the readers? I doubt it, but I’ll probably keep reading to see what fresh hell the manaka has lined up for us anyway.