Weekend Doujinshi Review, 15/3/30

Finally, I’m back to introducing you to doujinshi I enjoyed. Life has been busy, so it’s been two months again…

Amefurashi by Torimura (circle: Daiouika)

WARNING: This book is about sexual abuse of a child. If you’re squeamish about these things (and I don’t blame you if you are), please stop reading. I will not post scans of the scenes in question, but the subject matter is pretty jarring, so be warned.

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There was a girl I liked. One day, her photograph was posted all over our town.
In the railway station, the police box, the shopping center, and lamp posts all over the place…
The flyer was everywhere.
After a while, the colors started to fade.
The paper got wet, torn, blown away by the wind. People would punch in holes with push pins.
Now, ten years later, nobody remembers her face.

These are the words of the opening narration of Amefurashi, accompanying scenes of a young boy helping a girl reclaim her school backpack from a creek some bullies had chucked it in. They laugh, and the girl, as little girls do, proclaims that she will marry the boy.
At the end of this prologue, the girl is pulled into a van and disappears, leaving the boy standing helplessly in the middle of the road.

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Cut to the present, the boy, now in his late teens, is a kitchen help at a family restaurant. His colleagues mention a pretty customer he should check out, and there she is – his childhood friend Natsu, who vanished all those years ago. She recognizes the understandably shellshocked protagonist (Referred to only as “Shu-chan”), and they rekindle their friendship and budding romance.

One evening, as they revisit a playground they frequented as children, Natsu reveals to the protagonist what happened when she was taken – in her words, by the imaginary sea-hares (Amefurashi) that he has been seeing since childhood: Her torturers dissected and studied her body from head to toe, and built a clone to replace her – the girl standing in front of him right now. She is just a fake, a copy of the girl who disappeared so long ago.

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The protagonist (understandably) struggles with his relationship with the girl, who implores him to help find the sea hares’ hideout, where the real Natsu is still imprisoned.
One day he overhears a group of girls talking about his friend having an affair with her teacher, and staggers into a back alley with a particularly high concentration of the imaginary sea-hares, where he finds Natsu about to enter a love hotel with an older man. Confronted by the protagonist, she explains that the only time she feels loved – even though she is a fake – is when she is with a man, that is the only time she feels human and alive, even knowing she has been replaced with a lifeless hull long ago.
The protagonist, after freaking out and smashing the gazillions of sea hares with a shovel, and scaring off the older man, takes her in his arms, and finally says it:

There’s no invaders replacing humans with clones. Where ever we search, there is no other, “real” Natsu.
You right in front of me, you are the real Natsu.

I am so sorry, for not being able to protect you that day.

This book is one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever read. Because of the deceptively cute art, you wander in with completely unprepared for a study of childhood trauma that is so well crafted it’s devastating to read. It starts out tentatively optimistic, when the two reconnect, then takes a downturn when we learn more about the construct she has built inside her psyche to protect herself, and then hits absolute rock bottom when the protagonist and his friends accidentally watch a bootleg DVD that shows her being raped as a child – all the while calling his name (I mean holy shit). And it wraps up in a fantastic last two pages, when both of them take a tiny, tiny first step towards accepting reality, and healing.

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I was very conflicted about whether to write about this book or not. But in the end, I chose that I almost had to because of the emotional impact it had, and because I decided it was really well crafted to have that effect.
The 80-odd page book is beautifully crafted with another limited-palette cover (just like kraken, which I wrote about in my first review) and extremely expressive black-and-white interiors, but obviously the story overshadows everything.

In the afterword, artist Torimura (a young woman) describes a nightmare she had about a mass of sea-hares invading her house, which became the basis of this story. At the end of the dream, they transformed into a human girl who asked “Will you love me if I’m like this?”

I asked her about the inspiration for the incredibly chilling depiction of child abuse and the resulting trauma. She offered this anecdote:

“The sexual violence was inspired by a book I read in junior high school. It was a collection of first-hand accounts from rape survivors, and among them there was one that said, ‘my parents advised me to keep my experience a secret. They said my family would live in shame if their daughter was thought of as a rape victim.’ I was just a junior high school student, but this chilled me to the bone.”

The artist: Torimura on pixiv, Twitter.That’s it for today! Sorry, just one for today, I’m a bit exhausted… Hope you enjoyed the read.In for more? Make sure to check the doujinshi tag for books I have previously reviewed.

As always, I welcome feedback and interaction, so I’d be happy if you liked/reblogged, or even commented. Questions and suggestions are welcome!

Comitia 109 haul review

It’s been pretty much exactly a month since Comitia 109, but I haven’t really had the time to comb through my spoils from the show. I got a pretty good amount of stuff this time around, as you can see in my Instagram from just after the event:

Woops, two of those were upside down. Once more. #comitia109 haul.

A post shared by Phil Knall (@philknall) on

There’s a handful of these that stood out for me (as I said I haven’t really had the time to comb through them yet, so there might be other hidden gems), so I’ll take some time today to tell you about them.

1. kraken by Torimura (circle: Daiouika)

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This was my major new discovery at this year’s Comitia. I discovered it in the catalog, decided to check it out, and wasn’t disappointed.
The circle thumbnail:

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kraken was actually advertised in the “magazine” section of the catalog too:

Igawa’s entire body is covered in bandages, and she is shunned by everyone at school. A mundane encounter leads Higuchi to develop an interest in her, and he discovers her secret. A drive for revenge born out of miscommunication leads to a bitter and tragic end. 
The pain of adolescence, and a giant squid… This strange combination turns out to be really good.

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Higuchi, a pretty regular guy with a constant group of friends, notices weird, social outcast Igawa after they try to check out the same book about giant squid from the school library. She is being severely heckled by her peers, including the obligatory “die” and “scum” scribbled on her desk, and having her box lunch “accidentally” knocked out of her hands by a fellow student.
They develop a quiet, friendly bond, and she introduces him to her after-school project: Building a mechanical giant squid to destroy the school, their peers, and everything in its way.

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The 72-page story is drawn in a deformed, scribbly style with simplified faces and expressive, big eyes. there’s a lot of well-placed spot blacks, and purposefully loosely-cut screentones. The story moves at a fairly leisurely pace, and concludes in a destructive inferno that, while not entirely original, feels just right for the book.

Obviously my main impulse for buying this book was the cover. It’s amazingly designed with a great 5-color palette, a matte finish in the compact A5 size. I liked it so much that I asked the artist to sell me the display copy when I heard it was sold out. She sold out of it early in the day, apparently she had completely underestimated the demand (not suprising, since it was only her second show, and likely the first time she was featured this heavily in the catalog).
The story pages are a fairly heavy, matte paper as well, and overall it’s a very attractive package. I believe it was 500 Yen.

Artist: Torimura on Twitter Pixiv

2. iromonia by usamimiki (circle: R-Panda)

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This was a chance find, I just walked by their booth and there it was. Turns out I had already purchased another one of her books, 恐竜肉食少女時代(lit. “The age of girls who eat dinosaur meat”)at Comiket. I guess her style just instantly clicks with me.
R-Panda’s circle thumbnail:

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iromonia is about a blind little girl who gets picked up by a robot small-time criminal, who offers to take her back to her home town in exchange for her eyeballs (which he intends to sell on the black market).

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When she opens her eyes to allow the robot to take out her eyeballs, he is stunned by their beauty, and changes his mind, attempting to leave her be. In the girl’s youthful naivete, however, she tags along with him, and with the help of a friend, they set course for her hometown. It’s the tried-and-true formula of no-good adult and innocent child sidekick on a roadtrip, and true to form it’s not long before things go awry.

I bought this mostly for the art, which is beautiful with lots of detail and parallel hatching, as well as great character designs, especially for the robots. It’s about 80 pages for I think? 500 yen. The cover is beautiful with stark contrast of the white-faced girl against black background, and a logo embossed in silver foil. At one point in the story, the book actually goes full color for two pages to illustrate the girl’s emotions, and it just blew me away. It even came with a separate little booklet featuring design sketches and comments. I’m amazed at how well this book is put together.

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But the art is not the only beautiful thing about iromonia. The story of a 2-bit street thug getting more and more enthralled by the sincerely innocent little girl, and trying to make things right for her, only to realize he has no place in her life, is heartwarming and ultimately heartbreaking. It had me very, very close to tears by the end.

If you can find anything by this artist, I highly recommend checking it out.

Artist: Usamimiki on web and Pixiv

And that’s it – my two favorite picks from this year’s summer Comitia! Hope you liked them.