Oct 1, 2020
Are you someone who enjoys deep, exciting mystery stories with unpredictable case twists and clever plot setups but you're tired of all the Sherlock Holmes and Detective Conan? Then this manga ain't for you. However, if you're someone who just wants to read a light mystery story and doesn't mind it being mixed in with a dozen other themes and cliches (and you've got a thing for short dudes with long hair and pissy attitudes,) then you're in for a treat.
Chou Shinri Genshou Nouryokusha Nanaki (otherwise known as just Nanaki) is basically a softcore mystery manga with a supernatural theme. Since it's a short series,
I settled for reading it over a period of three weeks so I could properly digest it rather than just binge-reading it in one night--which I'm guilty of doing with most of the manga I read. I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I initially thought I would, though I'm quite disappointed with the seemingly "unfinished" nature of the manga as a whole (I'll elaborate on this part later.)
When we first meet Nanaki, he's your average high school manga protagonist who enjoys flirting with any female he sees (and failing every single time) and being a generally unreliable lazy ass. He also survived a freak car accident, albeit making it out alive with newly-gained psychic powers which became apparent through his remote destruction of a building. Which, hey, is kinda neat. Enter Kudou Ao, whom I like to label as "The Token Cryptic Bastard," who approaches Nanaki with an incredulous claim--that he had been receiving Nanaki's telepathic messages and that Nanaki is a "PSI Nouryokusha." In other words, he's your average high school manga protagonist BUT with fancy psychic powers.
When I first came across this manga, I was also reading another one of Saenagi Ryou's works. If you know me, you'll know that I'm an absolute sucker for the late 90's-2000's SLAYERS-esque manga/anime art style, so when I first saw the cover art for Saenagi's work, I instantly fell in love. Nanaki was one of three of her works that were licensed in English by the infamous Tokyopop, and it's also the only one that's completely available online. It's 3 volumes which can take a fast reader a couple of hours to finish, but it overall manages to be a satisfying experience in what short length it is.
The story itself is quite interesting. Granted, the cases aren't exactly very complex with the exception of some tricky occult chit-chat and psychic whatnot, but that's about it. It's inviting enough that anyone from the age 12 and up can crack the first book open and remain entertained enough to move on to the next one. After a few chapters, though, you'll realize there isn't much WOW factor, but all the characters, even the minor ones, are likeable enough for you to be engaged in the world with them.
And there is (or was) a lot of potential for the LOCK agency to be it's own cool little world and for more in-depth explorations of certain events in the manga, such as what exactly happened to Ao's old partner, or why he ended up in that form and if there would be any chance of him managing to recover (which WAS subtly implied but who knows.) Sadly, like I mentioned before, this manga suffers from a severe case of rush-ititus and unfinished-ness. This series should have been, at most, six or seven volumes long, an adequate amount of pages for which the artist could properly flesh out the setting and characters without having to hurriedly cram new characters and twists, only for them to be quickly forgotten within the next chapter making them virtually irrelevant to the story without further development or inclusion.
The strongest indicator of the manga's incomplete state would be the "Warbler's Song" that appears in the beginning of the story as a lullaby being sung to Nanaki by his mother in a flashback, and then on a piece of a paper that Nanaki found in the hands of the enigmatic "Doku" (another one-off character.) You'd think that since the reference shows up for the second time, it MUST have some kind of deep symbolic meaning that could potentially tie up all the loose ends of the story. But...that's not the case at all. Besides those couple of instances, this element is never mentioned again in the story. Not even in the (abrupt) ending. Quite anticlimactic, but the author mentioned at one point in her notes that the story was about to be even shorter, so I guess it's better than nothing. It still leaves me wondering why it couldn't be longer, though.
The art is beautiful. Saenagi Ryou is a very skilled mangaka who has this lovely way of constructing character designs and expressions that make you wanna stop and observe every detail of every panel. Another nice thing I noticed is that the majority of her characters are androgynous in appearance. It's not even the radicalized, fetish-y kind either; it's just that her males don't always look 100% masculine and her females don't always look 100% feminine. And I find that really cool! You get to focus more on the characters' personalities regardless of their appearance or gender.
Which brings me to the characters themselves. All the characters, no matter major or minor, were all great. The villains aren't always very menacing or convincing as villains which some might find cheesy, but it didn't bother me so much. The fanbase seemed to be enamoured with Ao, but I found myself leaning towards Nanaki. His development was my favourite part of the whole manga. It was done pretty well for a character of his type. His "transformation" scene literally left me slack-jawed. I knew it was coming, I just didn't think it would be that brutal. I love how slowly and invisibly the relationship between Ao and Nanaki grew, how by the end of the story you could tell they grew to love and value the other, even though they never explicitly showed it. And they didn't have to.
That's the thing with Saenagi's stories; most of them have all-male leads, lack of female love interests, and yet they're never labelled as "shounen-ai" for example, but you can tell her protagonists have this unspoken profound love for the other without any fanservice or so-called "teases." They're important to the other and don't have to lip-lock or constantly blush or even be friendly to prove it. That's exactly the case with Nanaki and Ao.
In the end, I think if Nanaki was longer, it would've been an amazing series and I probably would've given it a perfect score if not for that. Not that it's any less of a good series as is, but that sudden ending and lack of any real closure would disappoint any eager reader. However, what it lacks for in completeness, it makes up for with lovely art, a compelling plot and cool characters. It's more of an appetizer than a full course meal; it'll satisfy your hunger at the beginning but make you crave more when you're finished. That aside, paranormal themes, no matter how cliched or over-saturated, are just the cherry on top of any good mystery story.
Also, Kudou Ao could kick Kudo Shinichi's investigative ass any day (sorry, Jimmy.)
What did you think of this review?