Yumekui Kenbun Nightmare Inspector Volume 1 by Shin Mashiba (amazon)
There are plenty of manga that fit into the “spooky magical shop” genre like Time Guardian, Petshop of Horrors, and xxxHOLiC. Yumekui Kenbun Nightmare Inspector joins this group, as Hiruko is the proprietor of the Silver Star Tea House, a baku who eats dreams. His abilities as a nightmare inspector seem to be well-known, as his shop attracts a variety of clients. The entire volume is set up as a series of short episodes where people seek Hiruko’s help, he puts them to sleep with his magical cane, and he enters their nightmares in an attempt to give them some resolution. There’s usually a surreal, twilight zone like twist at the end of the stories, and many of the tales deal with death or lost love.
While the manga was satisfying as a book of short stories, I wish it spent a little more time on character development. Hiruko seems a bit of a cipher. He sometimes makes an extra effort to help his clients while pretending that his actions are solely in his own interest. Hiruko also enjoys nightmares with blood because they taste better. The dream sequences of his clients are inventive and surreal – a girl walks through a broken landscape picking up her lost body parts in a bid to regain lost memories, a boy envisions a shed where his father locked him up as a series of Chinese characters, and an ardent fan tries to connect with the actress he’s obsessed with through the film of a silver screen.
The art is exquisitely detailed, with fine lines and the extensive use of screentone serving to illustrate the historical background of the Taisho era when this manga is set. The short storylines and lovely art made this a nice refresher volume for me as I was working through my stack of long-running series manga. Although there are plenty of spooky shop manga series out there, the historical setting and the art makes Yumekui Kenbun Nightmare Inspector stand out.
Review copy provided by Viz.