Phantom Tales of the Night Volume 1 Manga Review

Phantom Tales of the Night Volume 1 Manga Review

Phantom Tales of the Night Volume One cover

There is an inn, the Murakumo Inn, which charges a very unusual price: “I will take one of your secrets.” That is what the innkeeper tells the helpless folks, human and otherwise, who end up on their doorstep, not that they have many other options. Normal humans don’t enter the world of spirits that easily, usually, although sometimes it seems like it only takes one false step, one accidental utterance, to be ensnared in these threads.

The basic idea of “humans who interact with the unseen play a dangerous game, with dangerous prices” is a common one the world over, from regional folktales to manga series like Petshop of Horrors or xxxHolic. But often these stories are small morality plays, like the customers who can’t follow Count D’s rules or those who have already majorly messed up and are desperately hoping that Yūko can magically fix their situations for them. Phantom Tales of the Night ditches that idea at times and actively lures in unwitting, jealous but not bad people to force them into dire situations where they have to pay with secrets, and frankly I’m not a fan of it.

These events feel less like “acts of god and/or nature” and more “being scammed in a way you didn’t even know you could be” and with such bizarre circumstances I can’t feel sympathy for the victims or even curiosity at how their cases will be resolved. I simply prefer it when there’s a clearer line between the mundane and supernatural world, where there is relative “safety” if a character doesn’t actively try to get into a dangerous situation; I think it’s rather more thrilling to watch characters actively make choices than the all pervasive feeling of danger here because I feel as if this set-up will become dull much more quickly as readers assume that every event will lead to terrible consequences instead of having to guess and assess every time.

If however you don’t mind the more mean-spirited tone, Phantom Tales of the Night is a horror story filled with looming dread, folktales, some fantastical body horror (think “spider legs erupting from someone’s back”), and an art style to enhance it all. It’s a bit awkward to call the art pretty when it’s depicting say, a half-rotten corpse filled with flowers, but it certainly is striking and eye-catching and in my opinion the series’ biggest selling point. While I don’t intend to read any farther in the series, the art was certainly interesting to look at while I wondered if I even cared if any of the characters lived or died.

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