Review: Mieruko-chan by Tomoki Izumi

copy of Mieruko-Chan volume 1

Mieruko-chan by Tomoki Izumi
Yen Press (November 17, 2020)
146 pages; $13 paperback, $6.99 e-book
Reviewed by Danica Davidson

Mieruko seems like an average high school girl, but she keeps seeing hideous monsters wherever she goes. She’ll be standing out in the rain waiting for the bus when she’s joined by a monster with socket-less eyes, a gaping gut, and faces staring out from its insides.

“Hey, can you see me?” it asks her. “You can see. Can you see?”

She can see, but she believes if she doesn’t react, the monsters will go away. And they will . . . for a while. Then they’ll show back up at her locker in school, or crawl under her covers at night. They don’t hurt her, but they give her the creeps.

No one else sees or hears them. The monsters might cling to Mieruko’s ditsy friend Hana, but Hana will walk around as if nothing is the matter. Why is Mieruko the only one who can see these monsters?

Mieruko-chan (chan is a Japanese honorific often used for girls endearingly) handles horror in a slow burning, creepy way. Instead of monsters jumping out at you, they lurk and lie in wait. Some of them are based off Rokurokubi, a creature from Japanese folklore with a long, extended neck.

While the manga is certainly creepy, it has humorous moments, too. This is especially the case when Mieruko’s brother gets it into his head that his sister’s acting weird because she has a boyfriend. He starts investigating this, thinking the boyfriend must be a useless jerk, and keeps misunderstanding things so badly that it becomes comical. For instance, he follows her to a library where she’s looking up books on ghosts. But when she steps away from the book section she’s been in, he hurries over there and looks at the wrong shelf. Instead of seeing all the ghost books, he sees a book below that shelf that gives advice on hickeys, and he can only imagine the worst.

Hanna, the ditsy, sexy friend, is also there for comic relief, as well as for fanservice aimed toward male readers. (For that matter, there are some fanservice-y scenes involving Mieruko as well.)

This first volume in the series gets things set up, but doesn’t really get into the mystery of what these monsters are and why Mieruko can see them. Mostly it’s just about her running into monsters again and again, and how the things she tries to keep them away keep failing. For instance, she gets herself some prayer beads, but the beads break into pieces after she puts them around her wrist like a bracelet.

Then we get to the last chapter, which at first is almost presented as a throwaway or extra tidbit. But it’s in this chapter that we learn something that’s both subtle and explosive, and could be the key to understanding what’s going on with the main character. If Mieruko-chan continues from what it seems to be implying in this last chapter, it could get into some really deep stuff.

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