Ginji Ishikawa, the teenaged hero of Yu Aikawa’s horror fantasy Butterfly (Tokyopop), is a lad with issues: waking every morning to the ghostly sight of his suicide brother dangling before him, Ginji aggressively denies the seeming evidence of his own eyes. He’s actively antagonistic toward the very idea of the supernatural — and snarky among those fellow students who might even entertain the idea that ghosts exist. This antipathy keeps him from sustaining a relationship with any of the girls in his school: his friend Hatakeyama keeps trying to hook him up, but as soon as his date expresses even a girlish fascination with the occult, Ginji blows her off.
Ginji’s latest blind date, with a girl named Nachi who appears to know something about his dead brother, proves especially disastrous. An ill-advised trip to an amusement park haunted house results in our hero getting into a fight with one of the costumed employees. In need of money to pay off the amusement park, our hero looks for work, but is unable to find anything until a feminine looking child named Ageha approaches with the one proposition he doesn’t want to hear: “Let’s go and kill all the ghosts in the world together!”
Reluctant ghostbuster Ginji, it turns out, has a measure of psychic ability that allows him to come into physical contact with the apparitions that he sees. Are they truly spirits or manifestations of the haunted’s desire to see a ghost? Volume one in this series skirts around this question, though it’s clear that the ambiguously sexed Ageha is able to take pieces of other peoples’ imagination and turn them into ghostly entities. The duo thus take on three seeming hauntings in the first book: the first, in a hotel, initially conjures up the slimy confrontation in Ghostbusters, only without the wholesale destruction.
Butterfly’s ghost sequences prove fairly mild and at times reminded this reader of an old forties black-and-white ghost story flick like The Uninvited. As a scripter, Aikawa occasionally indulges in some gender-y innuendo — most of it arising out of high school rumors about Ginji’s relationship with the mysterious Ageha — but, in general, the teen-rated manga keeps its focus on its light-hearted hauntings. Despite a cover with a heavily filigreed background, Aikawa’s interior art is solid and straightforward, well suited to the series’ fanciful blend of paranormal mystery and character comedy; it makes for a quick and addictive read. The first volume ends with two big mysteries unresolved: the story behind Ginji’s brother’s suicide (which appears to be linked to a young girl’s death at a railroad station) and the exact nature of Ageha’s sexuality. I’m thinking we’ll get an answer to the first mystery before we receive one to the second.