Urameshiya Volume 1 by Makiko
I was hoping to cover more scary manga for the month of October and the horror themed Manga Moveable feast, but life got in the way and the only new spooky title I’ve managed to read recently is Urameshiya from jmanga.com. This is a historical variation on what I tend to call “spooky shop” manga, where a person with spiritual powers has to intervene in the lives of people who are affected by ghosts. It is a snowy night in Edo era Japan, and an attractive woman named Oyou has used up her welcome and the sake supply at a local tavern. The owner apologies and says that he has to ask her not to come anymore because she’s scaring the other guests. She leaves with the advice that he should throw some salt at the ghost that is standing in a corner and heads out into the night. A handsome man who turns out to be a not overly bright pickpocket stumbles against her. She catches him in the act and tells him that he has to buy her sake to make it up to her. Saji decides that he’ll put a different spin on things by taking her to his house and getting her drunk.
As they travel they cross a bridge with a lonely female ghost. Oyou prevents Saji from getting trapped and they end up spending the night together, but one of Saji’s neighbors turns up frozen to death after listening to the spirit. Saji asks Oyou for help getting back at the ghost that killed his friend. What follows are three long episodes where Oyou and Saji form an incongruous ghost-busting team. Oyou is mysterious and a bit snarky, never confirming her feelings for Saji. In contrast, he’s quietly smitten. He decides to move in with her into the spooky tenement that seems to be inhabited only by freaks of nature. They deal with a case of wronged love, a rapacious rich girl cursed with vagina dentata, and have an unfortunate run-in with a young fox spirit. I really enjoyed the art style in Urameshiya, which is old fashioned and stylized in a way that highlights the historical setting. Oyou and Saji both have glossy black hair, long flowing robes, and angular faces with gigantic eyes. Saji provides Oyou with a bit of a grounding influence, tying her to the real world. For all that Oyou protests that she cares nothing for the young thief, she’s actually incredibly protective of him if he’s threatened. Having only three chapters in a single volume seemed to give the author the room to more thoroughly set the scene for each episode. I enjoyed the relationship between Oyou and Saji, the space given to each monster of the week, and the historical setting of Urameshiya. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the next volume in this series.