Akuryōtō

Akuryōtō (Japanese title: 悪霊島) was a suspense horror manga based on the hugely successful novel of the same name by Seishi Yokomizo. Akuryōtō (unofficial English title: Evil Spirit Island) was originally serialized in the now defunct Weekly Heibon magazine before later being collected into a hefty twin volume release consisting of 800 pages and published by Futabasha publications under it’s Action Comics label. The release of the books was incredibly fast with the first volume being published on October 11th, 1981 and the final volume being published a mere fortnight later on October 25th. The manga adaption of the novel was written by Ichiro Hashimoto and illustrated by Toshio Maeda.

%e6%82%aa%e9%9c%8a%e5%b3%b63Set in 1967 Japan, Akuryōtō is the story of a private investigator by the name of Kōsuke Kindaichi who is invited to the remote island of Osakabejima in Okayama prefecture by wealthy billionaire, Ryūhei Ochi, in order to track down and apprehend a missing person. Unfortunately for Kindaichi though, the man he is looking for mysteriously turns up floating face down in the Seto inland sea where he is discovered by a passing tourist boat. Hauling the body on deck, the man is barely alive but, despite his horrific physical state, he still musters up the energy to utter some final words before dying. News of the event is brought to Kindaichi when his friend in the Okayama prefectural police department, Tsunejirō Isokawa, pays him a visit and lets him listen to a recording of the man’s final moments that was miraculously captured on tape by one of the passengers on the ship. As the two sit down and listen to the tape recording, they hear the dying voice of the man as he tells of an island that is possessed by a terrifying evil spirit, abominable conjoined twins, and to beware of the night when the white thrush sing…

As much as I would love to writeaku2 a full plot synopsis, the sheer scale of this story ensures that only a madman would tackle such an undertaking. (I know I’m a huge fan of Toshio Maeda but even I have my limits!) That said, it would be remiss of me to not explain why doing so would be so difficult. Basically, the main reason I’m apprehensive about doing so is because Akuryōtō is a complex crime thriller that is based on a very lengthy novel. In fact, speaking with Maeda about it recently, he told me that the project was a lot of hard work since he was unable to change any of the dialogue that Hashimoto wrote for the adaption so, with little room to play with illustration-wise, the manga adaption ultimately resulted in a lot of panels filled with large amounts of dialogue. In a sense, the manga itself turned out almost like a novel in its own right – albeit with a lot of illustrations. (You can see what I mean by the looking at the inset picture). The manga also has a narrative running throughout the story in addition to the dialogue between the characters so, as you can imagine, its a very hefty read – especially considering that each volume clocks in at 400 pages each! As to be expected with any murder mystery affair, Akuryōtō has a great many plot twists that leave the reader feeling suspicious of everyone that Kindaichi encounters on the island. The narration throughout the story helps heightens this sense of suspicion too since Kindaichi is a thoughtful fellow but, aside from the conversations that he has with the island inhabitants, we’d have no idea what’s going through his mind as he tries to aku3solve the case were it not for the narrative. In pursuit of the killer, Kindaichi begins to encounter more and more deaths as he gradually closes the gap on his prey but it’s not until the final chapters of the book that we discover who is responsible, as well as the dark secret behind the conjoined twins that play a key part in the story’s plot. I had my suspicions early on in the story as to who is behind the killings but was pleasantly surprised to learn that I was actually waaaaay off! Haha! Akuryōtō ends with Kindaichi closing the case beyond any doubt and restoring peace to the island. The inhabitants, now free of their fears, go back to living their carefree lives as Kindaichi finally waves goodbye to the island…

As I mentioned earlier, Akuryōtō is a complex story and pretty tough to read on a casual level but it’s an interesting story nonetheless. At the time of publication, Akuryōtō was a big hit not only in terms of novel sales, but also in popularity with even a motion picture movie being released the same year. Maeda also recently told me that his father was particularly proud of him for landing this job since it was such a popular story at the time. For Maeda however, it was a really exhausting period in his life since he was drawing roughly 16 pages a day for this manga alongside two other stories that were being serialized at the same time, Chi no Wana and Taxi Driver. I’m surprised he didn’t die from sleep deprivation really! As with most of Maeda’s work, this title too is long out of print but those who are interested in checking it out can still find used copies without too much trouble. You might want to invest in a good Japanese dictionary though if you’re considering tackling this one since it’s rather epic! Good luck!

Here’s the original Japanese covers: (Click to enlarge)

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