Glitch Volume 3 Review   

“Floating trees… giant animals… what does it all mean?” Officer Shinoda, bemused.

Ever since siblings Minato and Akira Lee moved with their doctor mother to the town of Touka-cho, they’ve been looking into the weird ‘glitches’ occurring there with Ito and Kei, Akira’s new schoolfriends, aka the Investigation Club. They’ve also befriended aliens Sai-san, who helps run a local shop, and diminutive Hirata, who now works in textiles; both are from other worlds and have found themselves stranded in Touka-cho with no obvious way to get back home. And now even local beat officer Shinoda is involved (even though he’s quite nervous and would rather not be!). But Hirata has gone missing and the Club members fear for the little alien’s safety as some fearsome wild beasts have been seen roaming the streets.

Drawn to enter the strange and sinister forest situated in the centre of the town to search for Hirata, the siblings discover a hole in the wire fence big enough for them to get inside. To their horror, they find a little arm that looks as if it belonged to Hirata. But to their relief, Hirata appears – and then they encounter Ito and Kei who have been searching for them, accompanied by Sai-san and Officer Shinoda (who is well and truly spooked by now). Sanae-san (who runs the after-school club) has also bravely ventured into the forest, armed with a golf club, because she still doesn’t trust the aliens. And repeated sightings of a sinister watcher wearing a gas mask that obscures their features adds to the growing unease.

Meanwhile, Ito’s mother Nene-san and the Lee siblings’ mother are enjoying a well-deserved meal out together and start discussing the spooky events in the town, including the giant figures. Dr. Lee says that she’d heard Touka-cho was a culturally diverse area and that affected her decision to move there with her family (she’s referring, no doubt, to Minato’s decision to present as non-binary). Behind them, the menu offers a wide selection of dishes from different cultures.

The Lee siblings go to visit Hirata with a get-well gift of peach juice and the little alien asks if it’s a custom on earth to give gifts to those that have been injured. This leads to a discussion as to what Hirata’s homeworld is like and Akira asks, “What if we could find a way for you to go home?”

But it’s not until Officer Shinoda is knocked off his bike by one of the black doglike creatures from the forest and Kei (who’s on its trail with her father) notices a tiny object it leaves behind as it flees, that the policeman realizes that it’s a pet microchip. Has the black creature eaten one of the missing pets? Or is there another explanation? And as Akira, Ito and Kei make contact with the gas-masked watcher through Sai-san, they are not in any way prepared to hear the revelations that the mysterious observer brings. Suddenly, events begin to move very swiftly in Touka-cho!

Shima Shinya has been recognized for their uniquely ‘different’ graphic style and their choice of storylines to match. Also known for their work set in the Star Wars world, Shinya’s contemporary take on manga illustration with very strong black lines is ideally suited to science fiction and urban fantasy; Glitch encompasses both genres with science fictional explanations now beginning to emerge for what at first seemed to be urban legends. There’s some gentle humour here to mitigate the increasingly strange and disturbing events taking place. Officer Shinoda is not the most courageous of policemen on a local beat but in spite of his misgivings, he forces himself to help the young people as they try to make sense of what’s going on.

The art, as before, is very distinctive and the bleak urban landscapes work well to create the uncanny atmosphere in Touka-cho: the long vistas of streets intruded on by giant shadow figures, the suffocating feel of the trees in the forest. Maybe it was a design choice for these four volumes but it’s slightly disappointing (given the possible options) that the colour pages at the front are monochrome again, with a double-page street scene.

Some of the dialogue seems oddly formal (the translation? I suspect not) almost as if it’s been simplified for younger readers (Glitch was first serialized in Comic Bean, a seinen magazine, so it’s not anything to do with the original target audience). Exchanges between alien Sai-san and Officer Shinoda sound as if they’ve intruded from some children’s adventure novel of another era. “Perhaps to those kids, investigating the glitches is a pastime as interesting and absorbing as pen spinning,” Sai-san says to Shinoda. “I think it’s the duty of adults to ensure their safety so they can keep having their fun.”

The translation for Yen Press is again by Eleanor Summers with lettering by Abigail Blackman; there are no extras or notes, other than the mangaka’s two-page illustrated preview.

It’s good to have revelations in this third of four volumes as there’s been much set-up but little explanation up till now as to what the glitches might be and why they’re happening in Touka-cho. But the last pages make up for lost time and the two-page trailer at the end sets the scene for what could be (I hope) an exciting finale. Volume 4 is due out in August, so not too long to wait!

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

8 / 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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