The supernatural investigations continue in the second volume of Saka Esuno’s sprightly older teen manga Hanako and the Terror of Allegory (Tokyopop). As in the first book, detective Aso Daisuke takes on cases involving suspected allegories — urban legends made manifest by their victims’ belief in them — aided by his own living allegory and a susceptible assistant named Kanae.
Though most of the cases in this series fall under the horror action category, the second book’s opener proves more self-consciously comic. In it, spunky Kanae, our newcomer to the world of allegory, drunkenly calls up a demon in a mirror. Said allegory has the power to grant our girl her heart’s desire, so Kanae asks to be made a mega pop star. Once she sobers up and realizes she’s put her soul in jeopardy, she’s forced to keep elaborating on her wish, making more elaborate demands to buy time until Aso can rescue her. This provides Esuno the opportunity to mildly satirize the trappings of modern disposable pop-dom, with Kanae singing a personal anthem that simultaneously declares in neo-feminist style “I’m not powerless,” while inviting listeners to look at her rack. You can practically imagine Camille Paglia hyping our girl as the Voice of New Empowered Womanhood.
More serious — and generally more successful — are the next two pieces, which work off suitably disturbing word-of-mouth tales. The first, “Teke Teke,” is about a living torso that reportedly rose after a young girl was cut in half by a moving train; the second concerns another young girl who was made blind when an ear piercing went horribly wrong. First of these is the purest horror yarn in the book, as it centers on a group of middle school girls getting thrown in front of commuter trains. The second is a more character-driven haunting — with its victim being driven to acting out the urban legend by a stressful family life. Though it broaches sentimentality in its conclusion, the latter tale has its moments: most notably when its young girl becomes the eyeless personification of her horrors.