The Summer Hikaru Died Volume 3 Review 

“Something’s come down from the mountain.” Tanaka, grinning as he gives the thumbs up. “How about we smoke it out?”

Nothing has been quite right in the village where Yoshiki lives since his friend Hikaru went missing on the mountain. Yoshiki knows that Hikaru died up there, and has been replaced by ‘Hikaru’ who is – and is not – his friend, but he hasn’t shared this knowledge with anyone, except ‘Hikaru’. However, three of the village elders have also noticed that things are far from right and they call in ‘Tanaka’ – a dishevelled-looking young man who carries a hamster in a travelling cage that he uses, a little like a canary in a mine, to warn him of the presence of ‘others’. Things soon get heated, especially when Hajime Takeda starts to talk angrily of Tanaka’s ‘company’ interfering in the village’s affairs but in the end the three simmer down. Tanaka shows them something unusual he’s found on the mountain: the bag that Hikaru’s father used to carry – and its contents.

Meanwhile, the friendship between Yoshiki and ‘Hikaru’ is deteriorating – or should that be evolving? Ever since ‘Hikaru’ revealed the full extent of his ‘otherness’ to Yoshiki, Yoshiki has been trying to come to terms with what it means. And it so happens that another of their schoolmates has also noticed that something is different. Asako has been able to see and hear things that no one else (except in her family) is aware of. When she was young, her granny told her that she’s a ‘hearer’ and warned her, “Ya better not answer or mess with them things… because yer voice will end up reachin’ them on the other side…” However, Asako has other thoughts than her granny about her powers. Folks from the other side might be scary… but I don’t think they’re all bad. One night when she, ‘Hikaru’ and Yoshiki are hanging out with their friends to light fireworks, she and ‘Hikaru’ go to buy ice cream and she calls him out, asking directly, “Just who are you?” Yoshiki, fearing that something might happen, goes after them and sees Asako lying insensible on the ground. His immediate reaction is to fear the worst – and the stunned, confused reaction from ‘Hikaru’ only seems to confirm his fears. “Bein’ dead, bein’ alive… is there really that big a difference? Is bein’ alive really more important?”

While the high school students are lighting fireworks, Tanaka and Takeda have been up on the mountain. Tanaka has led Takeda to an overgrown shrine and left a little bell smeared with his blood there to lure whatever’s lurking there out. Once again, the name ‘Nounuki-sama’ is pronounced, the name spoken by the ‘crazy’ old lady who screamed warnings at Yoshiki and ‘Hikaru’ in the street and was found dead – murdered? – not long after.

Three volumes in and The Summer Hikaru Died is as engrossing as before, maybe even more so as more revelations keep coming, yet never quite revealing the whole picture. Yet even as Mokumokuren plants all the warning clues, there’s the tug that Yoshiki feels – and is driving him to increasingly desperate measures as the final chapter in this volume reveals – to ignore all the red flags and just be with this entity that is and isn’t his ‘Hikaru’. We learn a little more about Hikaru’s dead father, Kouhei Indou, and the fact that the Indou family seem to have played an important role in protecting the village – or maybe in keeping the balance between Nounuki-sama and the humans. But now there’s evidence that whatever was up on the mountain has come down and infiltrated the village.

Chapter 13 opens in school as Yoshiki’s class is discussing (in groups) a worksheet about Swamp Man which posits a case where a man dies from a lightning strike while crossing a swamp, and an identical entity is created from the swamp and the lightning who then carries on living the life of the deceased man. “‘In this case would you say Swamp Man and the deceased are the same person?’” Yoshiki reads from the sheet as his group wrestle with the concept. What qualifies a person to be themselves? Yoshiki wonders silently as the discussion continues, glancing at ‘Hikaru’. Their memories? Their cells? Their experiences? What truly kills a person? These philosophical questions continue to underpin many of the events that occur after this, some shocking and violent, others more subtle and understated. Should we be rooting for ‘Hikaru’ as the entity that has taken his identity struggles to make sense of the human feelings he’s inherited – or should we, like Rie, see him as nothing but a threat?

Mokumokuren continues to immerse the reader in the everyday sounds of the countryside and the village, showing how they sometimes blur and blend into something more sinister. When Asako and her best friend Yuuki are walking home from school, Asako hears the clang of the level crossing warning bell and tells Yuuki lightly, “Ya might wanna avoid the crossin’ today” as the ‘CLANGs’ appear more and more menacingly across the page, foreshadowing the appearance of something definitely not human. Much praise to letterer Abigail Blackman for making these important and ominous sounds work so effectively in English; they contribute a great deal to building the oppressive atmosphere. Praise also to translator Ajani Oloye for rendering the villagers’ ‘local’ way of speaking in way that makes it sound different enough without turning into a Japanese version of Mummersetshire.

Extras include a nicely understated but amusing look at hair problems in Yoshiki’s class in the volume’s bonus story, a welcome light-hearted contrast to the increasingly portentous developments in the preceding chapters. There’s also several pages in which the mangaka answers readers’ questions and a double page trailer for Volume 4. There’s also a brief translation notes page. Yen Press have again included three colour pages at the start which is another bonus. (One very small issue, however, is with the use of the very pale lettering for the title on the attractive yellow cover; I can’t read the blurb as it’s so faint, it blends into the background colour.) Volume 4 is due out in August 2024.

Volume 3 of The Summer Hikaru Died is an absolute must-buy for readers who have been drawn into this addictive and unusual supernatural manga as new players enter the field and more tantalising mysteries are uncovered.

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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