From the stack: Muhyo and Roji’s Bureau of Supernatural Investigation

November 12, 2007

Quirky private investigators helping people with supernatural difficulties? In theory, I’m exactly the target audience for Yoshiyuki Nishi’s Muhyo and Roji’s Bureau of Supernatural Investigation (Viz – Shonen Jump), because I’ve repeatedly demonstrated my fondness for these kinds of stories. The reality is slightly more complicated, because Nishi’s take lacks the specificity and quirks of books like The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (Dark Horse) or Omukae Desu (CMX).

It has a fun premise. Creepy, tiny Muhyo is an executor of “magic law.” He’s entitled to hand down gruesome sentences on spirits of varying degrees of malevolence, and he takes a certain delight in messing with the heads of the living and the dead. Roji is his dorky, good-natured clerk, trying to work his way up the magic law ladder and keep Muhyo from scaring away all of their clients.

As a comedy duo, they’re functional but unexceptional. They don’t have the depth of character to really nail the jokes. That leaves most of the entertainment heavy lifting to their clients and cases.

The series is on firmer ground there. Nishi comes up with some nifty and varied hauntings, and there are some nice shivers in the individual chapters. (Is there anything spookier than a possessed doll?) There’s next to no gore in the illustrations, but Nishi has great visual imagination. The set pieces demonstrate a neatly gruesome energy.

As these kinds of series go, it’s not the best. (That would be Kurosagi, followed closely by the too-short Mail, also from Dark Horse.) But it’s pretty good, and with more attention to character, it could notch up to really good.

(Based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.)


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