There Can Be Only One – Future Diary

Mirai Nikki

Future Diary is a gem among survival game titles I’ve encountered, keeping up a thick tension all the way and with a host of atypical characters.

Manga Title: Mirai Nikki (Future Diary)
Mangaka: Sakae Esuno
Genres: Action, psychological thriller, supernatural
Demographic: Shounen

The Storyboard:
14 year old Yukiteru (Yuki) Amano has a hobby that at first seems rather ordinary – keeping a diary on his cellphone – but turns out to be something extraordinary. Introverted and anti-social, Yuki spends his free time at school keeping his diary and comes home to enter an imaginary world he thinks is of his own making, ruled by a god named Deus Ex Machina.


Deus Ex Machina

One day Deus announces that Yuki will be taking part in a game to select the next god – a survival game – but the catch is that the game involves cell phones. Yuki’s cell phone (referred to as a diary) is now equipped with a certain special function – being able to predict with accuracy what will occur around him in the future, which appears as text on his phone’s screen. His diary doesn’t give any hints as to his own future though, thus it’s called the Random Diary.

Mirai Nikki

Yuki and the Random Diary

Initially shocked by the cell’s accuracy in prediction, Yuki attempts to continue with his daily school life, meeting another diary holder in the process – Yuno Gasai. Yuno is Yuki’s classmate, however Yuki knows little about her other than she’s beautiful and got great grades.

Mirai Nikki

Yuno Gasai

Shortly after announcing that she knows about Yuki’s diary, she shows him her own, which she refers to as the Yukiteru Diary. Her diary displays all of Yuki’s actions over a ten-minute course of time. Yuno is at first forceful, then very affectionate towards Yuki, saying she has a strong desire to protect him in this deadly survival game. Terrified, Yuki barely has time to think before discovering that they too are being pursued by a tall, masked man who’s out to kill them.

Mirai Nikki

The Third

The man is also a diary holder, the first of many Yuno and Yuki will encounter throughout the series. Yuki discovers there are nine in total, and that each of them is trying to kill off the other diary holders. Quite simply, if the other holder’s diary is destroyed they die at the same time, and Deus will proclaim the last survivor to be the new god.

The three assailants Yuki comes across in the first volume all have their own unique diaries too. They all just refer to each other by their numerical orders – Yuki being the first, Yuno the second. The third diary holder has a Murder Diary which can see the methods he uses to catch and kill his targets. Later on Yuki also encounters the ninth and the fourth as well.

While Yuki fights with his paranoia about Yuno, his fear of the other dairy holders and of dying in the fatal game, Yuno puts her life on the line to protect him again and again. She shows a disregard for her own safety and an addictive, protective love for Yuki verging on being psychotic.

The stakes are high and the clock is ticking; with enemies all around and unsure of who to trust, Yuki enters the survival game of the diary holders where the only person he can actually call an ally seems to be crazy herself.

Mirai Nikki

The diary users

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Mirai Nikki is unusual for turning around common hero/ heroine tropes. The ‘hero’ Yuki is anything but – he gives up quickly, whimpers a lot and lets Yuno fight most of his battles for him. Even though he’s aware of his own pitifulness, he still feels like he’s in a corner. In a sense he’s relatable, it’s far easier to assume that you’ll act bravely and protect everyone under difficult circumstances, but a more likely truth is most people would be scared and start panicking.

Mirai Nikki

Common expressions for Yuki

To his credit, Yuki does try to break through his fears again and again, though mostly when he’s pushed into near death situations.

I noticed a slight difference between the manga and the anime in that the manga has some inner monologue from Yuno’s perspective.  This has the effect of making Yuno seem less sinister than she did in the anime. She’s really proactive, taking the reins to fight back against the other diary holders when Yuki goes weak at the knees. Aware of all his actions; Yuno stalks him, keeping a close watch over him and displaying an inexplicable love for him that remains one of the mysteries of the series to be explained later.

Yuno’s personality has been classified as ‘yandere’ in anime/manga jargon, the best suitable words I can find to describe her myself is ‘sadistically clingy’. The enigma of Yuno is a special one as her endearing qualities are almost on a par with her insane ones – thus creating a sort of ‘dark heroine’ quality about her that has endeared her to a lot of fans. Check out most image posts on Mirai Nikki and for sure you won’t be seeing Yuki.

Mirai Nikki

A yandere in love

Other diary holders are introduced in the first volume and of course more later on, but one thing is for sure – not one is ordinary and almost all have the intention of being god themselves.

The mascot of Mirai Nikki, Muru Muru, doesn’t appear a lot in the first volume but I wanted to mention her as well. She Deus’s servant, initially playing the role of an indifferent observer, however she takes a far more active role later on in the story. She provides a bit of comic relief in an otherwise pretty serious title.

Mirai Nikki

Muru Muru brings a bit of humor

Quite a few titles involving cell phones used in survival games came out before and after Mirai Nikki, but among them I’d have to say it’s one of the best. The pacing is excellently done, setting up a tense, fast feeling that doesn’t stop each chapter.

Mirai Nikki’s characters all display manic emotions, from extreme anger and fear to literally psychotic meltdowns – all drawn amazingly by Sakae Esuno. Though not being particularly endearing, the characters are extremely interesting and convention challenging. Topped off with a creative spin on the powers of cell phones and the mysterious game set up by Deus ex Machina – Mirai Nikki is undeniably a gripping, inventive page turner.

If I have any beef at all about the manga it would be a few holes in the logic of cell phones’ usage, but as usual with such titles, a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is required. The important thing is that I didn’t feel the amount required was significant enough to detract from the enjoyment of the series.

I decided to pick up the manga after reading Albert Nakano’s post on the anime (check out his article on it here ( I saw the anime when it aired between 2011- 2012 and thoroughly enjoyed it; revisiting the manga now is no less enjoyable than when I watched it.


Warm Things – Natsume’s Book of Friends

Natsume Yuujinchou

“We all like hearts that seek something dear – and burn with life.”

Manga Title: Natsume Yuujinchou
Mangaka: Yuki Midorikawa
Genres: Drama, Supernatural
Demographic: Shojo

Natsume Takashi is a teenager who can see ghosts. His grandmother could also see ghosts and was notorious for beating them in competitions and making them subject to her will. After defeating any ghost, she’d write its name in her ‘Book of Friends’ so that she could call on them to do her bidding. If a ghost from the book was called, it would immediately have to do what Natsume’s grandma, Reiko, wished.

After Reiko passed away, Natsume inherited the book. Not knowing what it was for, the book remained unopened for many years.

Natsume goes through a semblance of a normal life with his caregivers, trying to avoid giving his unique abilities away. One day he’s chased by a ghost and runs across another spirit who’s trapped inside a shrine. Accidentally freeing the spirit, which is shaped like a maneki neko (lucky cat), it informs him that the ghosts are chasing him as they hate Reiko and want to get their hands on the Book of Friends.

It turns out that the cat, called Madara at first (later to be named Nyanko-sensei by Natsume), also wants the book, but to use it for his own ends. Natsume strikes a deal with him, agreeing that he’ll give Madara custody of the book should anything happen to him – on condition that Nyanko-sensei helps him with his dilemma.

Natsume Yuujinchou

Natsume and Nyanko-sensei

Nyanko-sensei explains that many of the spirits wish to be released from their binding in the book and shows Natsume how to return the names to the ghosts. First visualizing them, the Book of Friends will then turn to the appropriate page with the spirit’s name. After that, Natsume needs to place the paper with the name in his mouth and blow out. The spirits are then freed from their binding.

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Natsume releasing a spirit

What follows is the tale of Natsume and Nyanko-sensei as they encounter the numerous spirits that Reiko wrote in her Book, gradually freeing them one by one, whilst drawing other entities to them. Many of the ghosts often aren’t friendly, bearing grudges against Natsume’s grandmother whom he resembles strongly.

In the process of clearing the Book of Friends Natsume comes across a variety of spirits. From small temple gods to the spirit of a passed bird, each is different, bearing their own unique tales.

Natsume Yuujinchou

Natsume’s friends

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The characters in Natsume’s Book of Friends are a varied bunch. Natsume himself is initially a naive student who doesn’t know anything about the spiritual world he’s capable of seeing. After meeting the conniving Madara he starts to have more of an insight into them, and here’s where the magic of Natsume’s Book of Friends lies.

The spirits he meets are very human. Though their appearances have mostly gone beyond normal, they all still have hearts and needs that Natsume sympathizes with, and as we come to discover, his late grandma did too. When freeing some spirits, Natsume gets a peek into their existences when they were alive and sees that each soul had a poignant story to tell. He begins to like the spirits and to see their similarities to living people, in the same way Reiko did.

Nyanko-sensei acts as Natsume’s character foil. Constantly reminding Natsume that he wants his book only, he appears to be happily waiting for Natsume to meet his demise. Nyanko-sensei inadvertently helps Natsume a lot to deal with the spirits he meets, suggesting that a friendship between the two is blooming unbeknownst to them.

Natsume Yuujinchou

Nyanko-sensei’s true form

Towards the end of volume one Natsume encounters a boy, Kaname, who is also able to sense the presence of ghosts and will perhaps find a companion in him.

Natsume’s Book of Friends is a heartwarming tale that deals with a concept we’re all too familiar with – however ends up quite different. His journey of discovery about the realm just beyond our vision is touching and thought-provoking. Who would have thought that the ‘friends’ Natsume always sought, would be those who are not of this world?

In the tradition of GeGeGe no Kitaro, the manga pictures spirits in forms that are a mix between comical and spine-chilling. Whether you’re used to eastern ghost stories or not, Natsume Yuujinchou is a refreshing take on this familiar genre.

Justice will, without fail, prevail – Death Note

Death NoteRather than being a ‘Whodunit’ murder mystery, Death Note immediately throws you into an intense psychological hotbox. The opponents facing each other in this hotbox are two characters who both believe that they represent the very definition of righteousness itself.

Manga Title: Death Note
Author/Artist: Tsugumi Ohba/Takeshi Obata
Genres: Psychological thriller, detective fiction, supernatural
Demographic: Shounen

The Storyboard:
Raito ‘Light’ Yagami, an honors student ranked highly in Japan and son of a detective, comes across a notebook that’s been seemingly dropped by someone outside his senior high school. Opening the book, he’s surprised to find this disturbing paragraphon the book’s first page:Death NoteAt first thinking the notebook is nothing more than a prank, he takes it home and reads the following paragraphs, which describe the details of how the selected person’s death can be manipulated by writing them in the Death Note too. Still not thoroughly convinced Raito gives it a try, experimenting first on a felon, and next on a random biker who’s harassing a girl he comes across in the street. After the biker really does die in the street from an apparent ‘accident’ – Raito’s doubts about the notebook are completely cleared.

Death Note

Validating the notebook gives rise to schemes within Raito’s mind, plans about how he can go about rectifying what he considers to be an evil world and become a god in the process. Raito begins his purge by writing down the names of one hundred dangerous lawbreakers, many of whom are incarcerated, believing himself to be untraceable due to the mysterious method the victims suddenly die from if not otherwise specified: a heart attack.

Death NoteShortly after, the true owner of the notebook, a shinigami (a god of death or a reaper) known as Ryuuku approaches him, telling him the book now belongs to Raito, and elaborating more on some of the rules regarding the Death Note. Ryuuku is invisible to everyone except the owner of the Death Note and those who touch its pages. He adopts a neutral status about Raito and his mission, claiming he was bored with the life of a shinigami and hopes that this unique human is going to make it interesting for him.

Death Note

Ryuuku the shinigami

In the meantime, Raito’s initial carelessness is actually what gives L, a famous private detective whose true name and identity are unknown, a major clue as to Raito’s whereabouts and methods of killing.

death note

L is on the case

L is contracted by international officials to investigate the bizarre sudden deaths of the hundred convicts. L’s sense of justice is the converse of Raito’s – he believes in following the law to the letter and any murder, regardless of who is killed – is still a murder. Tracing an invisible thread in the mass of killings, L filters them down to Raito’s location in Japan. Through a clever television broadcast, L also ascertains more about Raito and is able to pinpoint his rough location within Japan.

Instead of running from the threat, the now zealous Raito decides to use L’s closing in on him as a chance to annihilate his opponent. A battle of wits between the two geniuses begins, a battle in which the hunter and the hunted becomes unclear. One thing is certain however, neither Raito nor L will give in until they see that their ‘justice’ is done!

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The story mainly follows the perspective of Raito Yagami, thus you’re enveloped early on in his mentality. Raito holds that everyone believes in justice yet no one’s willing to take the law into their own hands, therefore he sees coming across the Death Note as an opportunity to help the world. The main flaw in this plan is Raito himself; he not only wants to mete out justice, but also hopes to be revered as a god for it, which immediately highlights his delusional thinking.

You could say that Raito is questionably conscientious – he feels pangs of conscience on initially using the Death Note however he soon covers this feeling up with his grand designs to cleanse the world. His ideology/delusions and ego overrule his compassion and he follows the path of his own convictions regardless. What’s more, when L issues his challenge over a television broadcast for Raito (who is dubbed ‘Kira’- a play on the English word killer) he takes a sort of relish in the idea of a cat and mouse game with L, confident that he’ll win.

While Raito doesn’t show a scrap of sympathy for those he kills, he seems to be genuinely caring towards his sister and father – relationships that later may end up being a liability for him in his role of Kira.

Ironically L is not so different from Raito. Both possess a strong sense of justice and are ingenious, meticulous men who show little emotion. L has the habit of sitting cross-legged and even meditating when pondering the Kira case. He shrewdly smokes Raito out in the first volume and using his international contacts, including the F.B.I., draws closer and closer to Raito’s position.

Ryuuku, the shinigami whose Death Note Raito lays his hands on is arguable the truly ‘evil’ character in the story. Whilst doing hardly anything other than observing and explaining to Raito the Death Note’s rules, he openly states that he finds humans interesting due to their struggles and attempts to change things. He keeps a number of facts back from Raito to increase the enjoyment of the murder game he’s watching unfold – all to ease the boredom of his eternal existence.

death note

Chilling with a shinigami

A range of other characters are introduced later, but I’m only going into the first volume here, so I won’t touch on them. Needless to say, the characters introduced later are every bit as fascinating and colorful as our three main ones so far.

The entire concept of a Death Note brings with it an immediate sense of suspense and of delving into the forbidden. Just like opening a grimoire or esoteric spell book, starting to read Death Note is the same as diving into that taboo world. Right off the bat, the tension begins – a tactic masterfully done by Tsugumi Ohba, drawing you into the psyche of Kira and the paranormal killings which he performs. The manga hits on a deeper level when you find yourself understanding both Raito’s motivations and L’s too, growing closer to both of them.

Takeshi Obata’s art, as any who are familiar with his works knows, flourishes on each page – strongly bringing out the atmosphere and emotions of the characters. The story doesn’t let up for one second, and I was biting my nails along with L, pondering what his next move and Raito’s would be, unable to stop poring over the pages of what I can honestly call a modern classic.

I’d heard of the infamous Death Note through the grapevine before I actually read it. At the time I was reading Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Bakuman, and met someone who recommended I read the manga. One of the things the person who recommended it to me said was, “It’s a psychological experience; it gets deeply into your mind.” I honestly couldn’t agree more.

death note


The Homeless God – Noragami

noragamiDue to the popular anime series Noragami needs no introduction, and whether you’re wanting to try the manga fresh or after having watched the anime, you won’t be disappointed.

Manga Title: Noragami
Mangaka: Adachi Toka
Genres: Supernatural, adventure, romance
Demographic: Shounen

The Storyboard:
The first thought that comes to my mind when thinking of Japanese gods is a temple, however that’s the one thing that our homeless god Yato lacks. Calling himself a delivery god (he’s definitely faster than any earthly deliveryman), Yato has dreams of making it big in the god industry by raking in a horde of followers and erecting a massive temple.



To accomplish this he scrawls his number all over the place – even toilet walls – in the hopes of landing a case. His messages go unseen by most people except those in dire need or those with spiritual sight. He accepts jobs of all descriptions, from fixing faucets to solving complications with spirits, all for the price of five yen (a common amount given when praying at shrines in Japan).

One day he and his helper, a woman going by the name Tomone, are called by a suicidal girl who needs their help, having been bullied and mistreated by her classmates. Yato points out that the girl’s problems, compounded with the general bad atmosphere created by the tension of taking exams, have summoned what he refers to as the Ayakashi (phantoms).



The Ayakashi are creatures from the other side that roam the spiritual realm and are still able to have an affect on humans. They are attracted to living beings emitting a similar dark energy, referred to as ‘gloom’, and can influence them. In some cases this can cause the affected people to behave strangely or even lead to their death.

Yato decides to take care of the Ayakashi with the assistance of Tomone, who turns into his regalia called a ‘shinki’ (a spiritual weapon), on command. Tomone can become a shinki shaped like a dagger and cut through the ghost-like flesh of the Ayakashi. Using Tomone, he slices the phantom up, obliterating it.

noragamiTomone parts with Yato after resolving the girl’s case, refusing to be his shinki anymore. Yato once again wanders about, indulging in delusions of becoming powerful. He takes on another job to rescue a lost cat given to him by a child who is able to see his spiritual graffiti within a phone book. Whilst searching for the creature, Yato comes across a girl who will become an important part of his life – Hiyori Iki.


Hiyori Iki

Hiyori is a high-school student from a wealthy family; she spots Yato as he carelessly crosses the road pursuing the cat and unwittingly runs in front of a bus. Attempting to save him, Hiyori leaps to push him out the way, only to be hit by the bus herself. Her bravery was hardly necessary as Yato has no real physical form so to speak, however she is injured by the accident and temporarily jolted from her body.


Soul slipped

Unknown to her she has now become a borderline walker (called a hanyou) – one who can traverse between both sides of life and death, yet is fortunate enough to still have a physical body. Recovering consciousness in a hospital, she thinks it was all a dream until Yato comes to her, telling her what happened. She follows him, and discovers that far from only being able to leave her body, she is even able to tackle Ayakashi in the spiritual realm.


Jungle savate

Hiyori begs Yato to return her to normal, which he takes as a formal request from her, but he claims he’s unable to start until he gains possession of a new shinki. Thinking to help Yato, Hiyori searches about for a lost soul to become Yato’s shinki. After a dangerous run-in with a malicious Ayakashi, Yato comes across a  recently deceased spirit and decides to turn it into his shinki.



The soul belongs to a teenage boy; Yato names him Yukine and in his regalia form his name is Sekki – a long, beautiful white blade. Yukine seems far from impressed with Yato, showing disdain for him straight away. Like it or not, all three of their fates become intertwined – for better or worse.

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Volume one of the manga is pretty short, only introducing Yato, Hiyori, Yukine and Yato’s previous shinki Tomone. True to the name Noragami, (nora meaning stray and gami – god) Yato is like a stray – homeless and sleeping on the streets or outside other gods’ shrines. His character is refreshingly different from gods in a lot of fantasy stories; although he has delusions of grandeur – dreaming of being doted on by female devotees – he’s down to Earth in dealing with his clients, and is responsible despite being a freeloader.

Hiyori is from a well-to-do family who treasure her (though it seems like they see her as a delicate object). She’s a wrestling fan, idolizing a famous wrestler which  makes her stand apart from her pop-idol loving friends. Immediately she shows herself to be self-sacrificing, bailing Yato out of trouble twice in one chapter (though he technically doesn’t need it). Sometimes naive, she’s bold and quickly adapts to her new, bizarre situation.

Making his appearance at the end of the volume, little is known about Yukine, except for his distaste for Yato and brattish temperament.

Not much is revealed about Tomone either, whose actual name is Mayu, apart from that she dislikes Yato – calling him dirty and useless. This doesn’t stop her from showing concern for Yato though, revealing that she still has a soft spot for him.

After watching the anime (which I presume will cover the content of most of the first volumes), I still found myself enjoying the revisit to these characters and their universe. Whilst obviously lacking the atmospheric music and color palette of the anime, the manga makes up for it in extra details and art.

In my opinion the manga stands on its own as a strong story – it has enough originality and appealing characters to make me want to continue reading. Also, viewers of the show will be able to continue the unfinished tale they saw started in the animation.

Yato’s powers are something I found particularly interesting. When he uses a shinki, kanji characters appear, making the name of the particular regalia. I found this part fascinating as it’s a recurring theme in magical and spiritual practices I’ve encountered since living in the east.


Mayu transforming into ‘Tomoki’

A lot of talismans made for protection, good luck, exorcism and the like involve the use of characters which hold a power of their own. Even over new year, auspicious words and phrases adorn the walls of homes and public places.

Adachi Toka makes poetic use of the mysticism of Japanese kanji, incorporating it into the characters’ names too. For example Yukine’s name (雪音) combines the characters for ‘snow’ and ‘sound’ – Yato having heard Yukine’s sound and he looked like a snowflake when he first appeared. Additionally Yukine’s name as a regalia is ‘Sekki’ (雪器) which is a combination of the characters ‘snow’ and ‘vessel’ (or weapon in this case) which I thought was a nice touch.

What’s your opinion of this manga? Can you recommend another manga in a similar genre that you’ve enjoyed?

Demi-Human – Ajin

ajin cover (2)

Manga Title: Ajin
Author/ Artist:  Tsunina Miura/ Gamon Sakurai
Genres: Horror, supernatural, mystery, action
Demographic: Seinen
Rating: M (mature)

Ajin (demi-human) is a fitting name for this manga. A running theme in the story is human nature, and in the case of the characters that nature is often less than human. The manga follows Kei Nagai, a high school student who discovers one day after an accident that he is one of the feared ‘Ajin’ – a type of being that can’t die and regenerates wounds shortly after receiving them.

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The dark nature of humanity soon shows itself to Kei as he is immediately hunted down for a large reward that has been placed on the head of any Ajin captured. Fortunately, he finds some compassion in his childhood friend Kai who immediately comes to his aid, and who doesn’t see him differently, despite his regenerative abilities.

kei and kai

Kai and Kei

Kei struggles to escape his would be captors, whilst coming to grips with his dilemma and figuring out what his new found powers are. He slowly begins to discover that Ajin aren’t only immortal, they also possess a unique vocal ability that paralyzes others, as well as a powerful kind of puppet called a ‘Black Ghost’ that they can manipulate mentally for attack and presumably other purposes (all that’s seen in volume one are its attack abilities though).

In volume 1 a few characters are introduced and it’s hard to distinguish between the good and bad guys. That’s to be expected though, the overall feel of the manga is pretty dark, and even Kei reveals some of his twisted intentions later on. Apart from having ordinary reward craving civilians on his tail, there’s the police and a mysterious duo from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (aka. Ajin hunters) who are also pursuing him.

Tosaki and Izumi

Tosaki and Izumi

They are Tozaki-san and Shimura Izumi. Tozaki is cold, methodical and has love for mints that he pushes on others. Izumi is his quiet sidekick who just screams that she’s holding a secret. They’re knowledgeable about the Ajin, especially their powers and weaknesses, the latter being very limited.

If things weren’t bad enough for Kei, another group is also searching for him – this time a group of fellow Ajin. Headed by a key figure among this secret sect, they seek to bring Kei to them for unknown purposes. Whatever it is though, their methods aren’t subtle.

Apart from the main plot involving Kei, there are flashbacks to another Ajin’s past – Tanaka – and his torture at the hands of his human detainers. In addition, later in the volume another female Ajin reveals herself in the most unexpected place.

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Tanaka in Captivity

The storytelling in Ajin is compelling to read; the time -skips that occur are well placed and give you enough tidbits of information to keep you hungry for more. This among other reasons made it a real page-turner for me.

Another enjoyable aspect is the overall brooding feel of the manga. This atmosphere grows with Kei’s gradual descent into accepting his predicament, physically and mentally. The dark past surrounding the Ajin is gradually revealed, including the persecutors who’ve tried to capture them and use them for experimentation and as weapons.

The art is fitting for the mood too, with dark and gory sketches and occasional escapes into wild abandonment by the artist.

abandonment (2)A particularly creepy feature in the artwork is the design of the Black Ghosts – ghoulish, mummy type creatures. They’re without a doubt the most sinister apparition I’ve seen appear in a manga recently.

Black Ghosts

Black Ghosts

Ajin is a title worth keeping an eye on (I’m thinking of anime adaptions in the near future) and is a tense, inwardly chafing journey into the realm of the demi-humans, and simultaneously into the dark recesses of the psyche.

What is your opinion of this manga? Can you recommend another manga in a similar genre that you enjoyed?