You are dead. Now, you have three options: accept your death and go to heaven, don’t accept it and stay as a ghost, and one more… haunt and kill someone in the world, but if you kill someone you will go straight to hell, and your suffering will never end. These options are presented by the long dark haired Izuko, the guardian of the gate for the murdered ones.
The art is creepy and far from what we consider a typical manga style - the brushes are blurred, the contrast between black and white is elevated to the maximum, connoting even a metaphorical level. Some illustrations at times seem to be just drafts but this rough style fits the subject of the manga pretty well. There are a lot of large frames and zoom in on the faces of the characters, since Takahashi likes to deform his lines when he’s picturing a deformed human heart.
Additionally, you can see some panoramic photos in the end of each chapter what always fits perfectly with the subject of it, and it’s a lot alike with the style that Takahashi used in ALIVE. There are also pictures of the city that make the reader reflect about his own life in a chaotic urban environment, with its sins and sadness; furthermore, Takahashi enjoys using ample black squares with only the assertion of the characters in big ideograms when the statements carry a lot of sentimental burdens.
The subjects are rape, murder, fake friends, suicide, voyeurism, bulling, vengeance, past, unemployment in times of crisis, unfulfilled dreams, child abuse. There’s no cliché here, only brutal reality. The morals aren’t what we are used to see like the power of friendship and idiotic things like that. The morals are surprisingly appalling. It’s a deep reflection about some Japan’s issues: people who isolate themselves, who fantasize with the filthiness.
I don’t think all the sex scenes were really necessary, at most of the time they were just fanservice, and that would be one of the few complaints that one can makes, but we are talking about a plot which involves some Freudian subjects so probably it’s inevitable. Besides, Takahashi links these scenes with some deep reflections about hypocrisy and the masks people wear. Actually, in some sense 90% of the manga talks about human hypocrisy. Hidden tears mixed with fake ones.
The ugliness of humanity presented with no fear, as well as the distant path to salvation which consists in the rebirth and trying once again, even with no promises that the same mistakes won’t be committed in this cycle of death and rebirth. The characters are almost like personifications of some dark sides of the heart, but we cannot call them takeoffs when the development is always far away from generalization.
The twisted art fits a narrative that distorts values: heroes become villains, victims become culprits. There’s no salvation, people just keep going down in the path of the hate. They could go to heaven, but they prefer to destroy themselves with dark feelings. The past is a chain that cannot be easily broken, and it consumes the prisoner. People have problems to move on when the unsettled things of the past come to meet them.
The chapters are episodic, always following a tragic ending of some poor human being. As the story always involves murders, there are some parts in which it seems like a detective manga, although the focus is more in the psychology of the characters than in the mystery.
Comparisons with Jigoku Shoujo are inevitable, seeing the plot, the episodic development, the vengeance subject, and the fact that Izuko looks like a grown Enma Ai, but as a matter of fact this manga came first. But Izumo still cannot use the internet Like Enma and that’s why Skyhigh doesn’t outstand here on MAL.
You’re tired of the same clichéd manga. Now, you have three choices: Move on and read something more intelligent, stay in the mainstream stuff… and one more: haunt and kill this reviewer, but if you kill someone you will go straight to hell and your suffering will never end - something to look forward to when you die.