The Summer Hikaru Died Volume 2 Review

“If you get even more mixed up with that thing, who knows what’ll happen.” Rie to Yoshiki. “I don’t even wanna imagine it…”

High-school student Yoshiki is trying to come to terms with the undeniable fact that his best friend Hikaru has been replaced by ‘Hikaru’; someone or something utterly alien that has taken Hikaru’s body, memories and personality. After a genuinely terrifying revelation in which ‘Hikaru’ showed Yoshiki what he/it really is, Yoshiki is utterly confused. He’s also had a meeting with a middle-aged woman, Rie, who has been through a similar experience and who has warned him not to get involved. It’s too late for that, though…

Meanwhile, ‘Hikaru’ is really keen to visit to the village summer festival so, accompanied by Yoshiki’s school-phobic younger sister Kaoru, the three go along. But it’s not until after Hikaru is unable to cross into the shrine, repelled by the torii, that he and Yoshiki get down to some plain talking. Yoshiki has a confession to make to Hikaru. When his best friend went missing out on the mountain in stormy weather, he joined the search – and he found Hikaru’s body. After stumbling home in shock – and soaked to the skin – he fell ill and by the time he was up and about again, Hikaru was back. Except, of course, it isn’t ‘his’ Hikaru even though it desperately wants to be so.

Another flashback shows us Hikaru lying badly injured on the mountainside, making a fervent wish to the kami of the mountain to stay by Yoshiki’s side if he doesn’t make it back to the village alive.

And the adults in the village? Some of the older men, aware that things are far from right, have decided to call in a certain “Tanaka”. There’s talk of a ritual that should have been conducted. What will this mean for Yoshiki and Hikaru?

Mokumokuren slowly, relentlessly increases the feelings of foreboding and building tension in the second volume of The Summer Hikaru Died. All the classic ingredients for a classic rural horror story are here: the isolated village, the boy who comes back from the mountainside ‘changed’, the menacing presence of a local deity. But it’s the skill that Mokumokuren employs in the art that raises the hairs on the back of your neck as you read: we glimpse things that are half-obscured by sinister shadows, or reel at the impact of a single devastating image on a page. When we see what’s happening through Yoshiki’s eyes, we share his conflicted feelings about the one who is and isn’t Hikaru as he struggles to come to terms with the inescapable knowledge that nothing can ever be the same again.

The translation for Yen Press is again expertly handled by Ajani Oloye who provides a helpful page of translation notes. The lettering by Abigail Blackman is something of a tour de force again, having to convey so many different feelings, internal voices, and sound effects. A double-page colour image of Yoshiki and Hikaru at the beginning is preceded by a disturbing colour page reminding us exactly how alien ‘Hikaru’ has become. There’s also a brief afterword from the mangaka and a one-page preview of Volume 3 at the end.

The Bonus adds another insight into what might be going on in Hikaru’s consciousness as he struggles to understand human emotions. A girl at school tells him she likes him. That’s a confession! Yoshiki tells Hikaru. “That means she was asking you out.” But this only leaves Hikaru even more confused, especially as he is trying to sort out the different kinds of likes that humans experience.

The picture on the back cover shows a much younger Hikaru. The manga continues to quietly suggest that Yoshiki’s friendship with Hikaru went far deeper than ‘like’ and the moments in which the alien entity reaches out to Yoshiki are both disturbing and oddly sensual, even sexual. When Yoshiki feels stifled by the village with its petty feuds and disapproving looks/comments (especially about his little sister) and says to Hikaru that he wants to leave, Hikaru comes back with, “I might not be able to replace him or anythin’… but I’ll always protect ya. And I’ll do whatever y’ask me to…”

As the stakes are slowly but inexorably raised and ominous warnings and weird happenings put Yoshiki’s nerves even more on edge, the chapters pass swiftly by, leaving the reader (this reader, anyway!) desperately eager to see what comes next – and yet also, like Yoshiki, half-dreading to find out what’s in store. The manga is up to five volumes in Japan and Volume 3 comes out in April 2024 from Yen Press, so not too long to wait!

Our review copy from Yen Press was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK.

9 / 10


Sarah's been writing about her love of manga and anime since Whenever - and first started watching via Le Club Dorothée in France...

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