Dark Gathering - Reviews

Dark Gathering
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crowtmanga's avatar
May 27, 2022

If you're interested in horror, definitely give this manga a chance. Below are my thoughts on the story, art, and characters.

Story

I'll skip a general description of the plot, to avoid redundancy and spoilers. The story so far is formatted in a highly intriguing juxtaposition of spine-tingling horror and typical battle shonen matchups. This can somtimes lead to an uneven execution, but overall it's such a refreshing take that it's unpredictable and just fun to read.

   Horror

On the horror side of things, the stories and spirits involved are genuinely creepy, and they explore the full range of folk lore spookiness to slasher killers and body horror. Your mileage may vary on what spooks you, but I found most of the horror to be genuinely compelling, even when melodramatic. There's often a "monster of the week" with each small arc of the story, and each one comes up with its own brand of sinister or tragic backstory. Another neat facet is that many of the locales visited by the characters are real haunt-spots in Japan (the most famous mentioned, with my limited knowledge, is the suicide forest of Aokigahara). They even refer to a handy map with detailed illustrations of the locations--which also works as a fun way to signal what sorts of stages to expect for story beats.

   Battle Shonen

On the battle shonen side of things, you can expect the usual format: the protag's acquire a new skill, battle a new foe with a unique gimmick, and somehow pull a win through their ingenuity & determination. What's interesting is how this format interacts with the horror elements. Since the manga is at its heart about horror, the fate of the trio of protagonists is always in question, even if the battle shonen format is in place.

The battles themselves are often missions to capture or quell some dangerous spirit. It's addictive to keep reading to see which haunt spot the characters will visit, what kind of spirit they're dealing with, and how they plan to counter the malevolent forces at work.

Although the little girl, Yayoi, is a stoic and reliable force to be reckoned with, many victories are hard-won and barely achieved in a way that traditional battle shonen can't quite convince. Because the horror is real and consistent, so too are the stakes.

Because the manga juggles both horror and battle shonen genres, the pacing isn't always on point, but I never found myself bored for very long.

Art

I don't have a great eye for art and linework, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. The overall art style is OK. To me, it seems like typical, standard illustration for the manga industry, and it does it's job serviceably.

The characters stand out most when it comes to the range of horrified expressions they have or, in Yayoi's case, her highly styelized "death loli" look which I have trouble describing. I'm personally not a fan, but I see its charms. I flip-flop constantly on whether her eyes look cool or are just bizarre. Maybe they're both.

Goth loli + yami kawaii + kingdom hearts?

Goth loli + yami kawaii + kingdom hearts? Not pictured: her absurd shoes.

Where the art really shines is when it comes to the horror elements and specifically the spirits. It's utilized so well when it comes to setting the environment, establishing the grotesqueness of each spirit, or even managing "jump scares" in written form.

I don't have much else to say other than I find those elements incredibly strong and well-thought out, pulling both from known tropes as well as establishing unique encounters with the dead.

Tuesdays for Keitarou

Characters

The manga works with a trio of protagonists (the" main" being Keitarou). By themselves, they aren't remarkable characters. Keitarou is a typical good boi with an unfortunate tendency to attract spirits both benign and evil. Yayoi is an 8 year old who is, of course, a deadpan mentor-type who is a savant at hunting spirits. Eiko is a Pollyanna who is always up for adventure.

The characters are at their most interesting when it comes to their relationships with each other, and with the horror they face.

Together, their roles shift constantly. Yayoi is a mentor to Eiko & Keitarou when it comes to spirits, yet she needs their mentorship and reassurance when they are reminded she is only a little girl. Keitaro at turns feels responsible for their perils and also struggles to meet those perils. Eiko......well, Eiko is super intriguing. I really can't wait to see where we end up with her.

In terms of how they respond to horror, these characters repeatedly confront "dread" (i.e. fear & evil, dangerous situations) with mixed results. They each have different reasons for walking into danger, and the balance between determination & terror is one they have to confront again and again. Although Yayoi has a concrete reason for hunting spirits, the "whys" of Eiko and Keitarou are constantly confronted and re-examined.

As a small note, it's also refreshing to see a little girl character in manga who is NOT put into weird, laviscious scenarios or clothes. Probably a weird thing to call out, but it happens enough in manga that it's nice to see a girl treated like a person.

Closing Thoughts

I spent a good chunk of time on this review. It's because I believe this manga deserves more readers. Try it out, whether you enjoy horror or are looking to try something different.

9/10 story
8/10 art
8/10 characters
9/10 overall
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