As a writer, I could only be intrigued by the title of Saka Esuno’s horror manga series, Hakano and the Terror of Allegory (Tokyopop). Terror of Allegory? How about the Menace of Metaphor? The Shock of Simile? I’ve been there, pal!
Turns out, though, as presented in the Older Teen-rated series, an “allegory” is a living manifestation of an urban legend. Aso Daisuke, a former cop turned p.i., specializes in dealing with these beasties; when confronted with a client menaced by one of these creations, he begins to hiccup, living out the old kid’s tale that if you hiccup 100 times, you’ll die. It thus becomes paramount that Aso vanquish each allegory before he reaches that magic number.
To top things off, our heroic detective also has a girly-looking allegory haunting him personally (though why this particular ‘un doesn’t set off the guy's hiccups is not explained): Hanako from the bathroom, a techno-savvy schoolgirl figure capable of traveling from toilet to toilet — where she’s able to lend a hand in the fight against malicious or vengeful allegories.
We’re introduced to this somewhat nonsensical set-up through Kanae Hiranuma, a young girl brought into Aso’s agency after she is haunted by an axe-wielding boogeyman under her bed. “Some stories have a power that can’t be explained,” Aso explains. “Some people tend to attract these stories on a genetic level.” On hearing the urban myth of the Man Under the Bed from a girlfriend, Kanae so connected to the story that the myth became manifest. Now she’s afraid to go to sleep else the axe-holding creature attack her when she’s most helpless.
It’s not giving much away to reveal that Aso saves his client from the creature under the bed — or that Kanae becomes the p.i.’s office assistant. We need her as the eyes of normalcy to balance the eccentric Aso and other-worldly Hanako. (We know Aso is out there because the shelves of his office are lined with erotic manga — and the guy doesn’t even realize how this might look to potential clients.) She proves a good Watson to whom Aso can explain the rules of each urban myth.
In addition to Kanae’s confrontation with the nameless bed man, Aso’s agency takes on two more cases in the series’ first volume: one involves a plain girl who is possessed by a needy allegory called the Slit Mouthed Woman; the last concerns Human-Faced Fish. (Esuno includes a one-page afterword describing the basics of each legend in modern Japanese culture.) While Kanae is an innocent victim of her particular allegory, the haunted clients in the other two cases are more culpable. In the two-part fish tale, victim Yousuke is the sole survivor of a school bus crash who witnessed his drowning classmates as they were devoured by river fish. He’s attacked by hybrids that look less lie human-face fish than they do fished-headed humans. At first, we think Yousuke is just an unlucky survivor like the kids in the Final Destination flicks, though we ultimately learn his allegoried classmates have a good motive for exacting their vengeance.