I was not expecting to like this series. When my friend told me I should read it, I at first was planning on saying no. However, I ended up saying ok with the thought that I'd give the first one a try and then not read the rest. Boy was I wrong. I started this series last night and by this morning I've already finished the third book. Not my normal cup of tea (or coffee with this story ;P) but I'm glad I took the chance.
The story centers around the Silver Star Tea Room, a business in 1920's Japan run by a young lady, Mizuki. However, nobody comes here to drink tea or coffee; instead they come to meet the baku Hiruko. A baku is a demon who eats and lives off dreams. Hiruko has the appearance of a young boy and people come to the tea room so that he will walk them through their dreams and help them in exchange for their nightmare to eat. While he claims he only does this for the nightmare, he does seem to go out of his way to help his customers and appears sad when it doesn't seem to work. He is a very interesting and contradictory character.
While many people come and go through the tea room, their nightmares are more interesting than they themselves are. The ones to focus on are Mizuki and Hiruko. In this book, Mizuki seems like a background character, commenting and welcoming customers but simply a way to learn more about Hiruko. The baku himself is a little bit more developed. We see him take an interest in the people that come to him, though he claims to only care about his next meal. He appears to be a young boy but he often acts much older. He is a very interesting character with a lot of potential.
The book is broken up into small chapters each with its own new character suffering from a nightmare. The chapter is the baku walking through the dream with them and helping them work though it. Since they're nightmares, most of them are pretty dark and depressing and the ending is often up to characters. While the author has not done much about it yet, there appears to be an overarching story about Mizuki and Hiruko, but it's very faint in this one.
Writing and Drawing:
Shin Mashiba is a very talented artist with a gorgeous drawing style. The setting is very detailed and the characters are very well rendered. The writing (also done by the artist) is very well thought out and each chapter flows into the other as well as keeping your interest even with little knowledge of the person the nightmare is about. This is a very well put together manga.
My only real problem is the reason I had to mark this for spoilers. I realize Hiruko is a baku, a demon, but he really tries to help people in their nightmares and they all seem to end the same-very badly. Almost none of these stories end well and despite the short time you spend with the customers, you do come to care about them. So to see every single one of them go out with such hope and see it shot down later is very disappointing. The one I was most disgusted with was the one where the customer chose to leave a body part behind in the dream which represented a memory she would forget. After they come out of the dream, her former boyfriend runs in with a policeman saying she stabbed him. She is then able to say quite honestly that she has no recollection of the event. I nearly threw the book.
Other than the bad endings, this is a good series and I'm glad I read it.
This is a great series and I'm really looking forward to seeing what the artist has in store for us. The drawing style is good and the writing engaging. If you like supernatural manga or manga set in historical periods in Japan, this is a good series to pick up.