Yami no Matseui was started back in the mid-90s by manga-ka Yoko Matsushita, and is still as wonderful with the many times reading over again as it is with the first. A limited anime was made from the series, but it focused mainly on the dark stories in this shojo series, but there are many lighter stories as well. Volume 5 is one of those stories, and the one I choose to start with.
The main protagonist of Yami no Matseui is Asato Tsuzuki. He has a complex past, a bloodline that might have demonic blood, but he is a fun-loving lush who knows how to make his quirkiness work for solving most problems that come with his job. His job? He works as a shinigami, a reaper of the dead, for the summons department of Purgatory. He works with a partner, Hisoka, a teen boy with a complex past of his own, and a few others. There is Chief Konoe, and the department secretary and bookkeeper, Tatsumi, and the wild-eyed scientist, Watari. There is also an entity running the Hall of Candles, a nobleman known only as “The Count” whom is charge of the lives of mortals, as each life is represented by the candles on his estate. There are a few other supporting members of the team we see in passing working in other prefectures, but our main focus is on the one that Tsuzuki and Hisoka cover, which is Kyushu. There is also an antagonist, Dr. Muraki, a doctor with an supposedly angelic bloodline whom is as evil as it gets, and somehow has woven himself into the lives of both Tsuzuki and Hisoka before the two even met.
Volume 5 does not deal with Muraki directly, but he does make an appearance in a nightmare Tsuzuki is having at the start of the story. You see, there are lots of yaoi undertones in the Yami no Matseui stories, although nothing really ever comes of it, even though bisexuality is very common in Japan. Tsuzuki sits up in his bed to find Muraki watching over him, holding a bouquet of roses, and a document. Muraki wants to marry Tsuzuki, and even in a dream, being a mate to such a evil guy, no matter what your sex might be, is pretty scary, but it can be even scarier when a friend you thought you trusted has sold you out for a fee. The friend happens to be the department tightwad, Tatsumi, and it this point, it seems he will do anything for money. Tsuzuki wakes up, relieved that the nightmare is over, but there is a ugly little undead Englishman sitting on top of his blankets while he sleeps under them. This little dude is Watson, the count’s butler, and has come to give Tsuzuki an invitation to a cherry-blossom viewing tea party at the estate. So, Tsuzuki leaves a lech in his dream to wake to the other lech that lusts for him in reality. Yes, the Count has a crush on Tsuzuki, too.
So, later that day, everyone makes it to the party, and the Count tells them that he has taken up writing novels lately, but the books actually write themselves, according to the characters and plotlines he sets up. Watari has experiments running, so he just pops in and out. Tzusuki and Tatsumi have a tiff about the dream. Tatsumi really does not understand why Tsuzuki would be upset out something that happened in a dream. This does not stop Tsuzuki from running off to get away from him. Tsuzuki wanders around the halls of the estate, and comes to the library. He leafs through one of the books without a title, and is soon falling from the sky towards an unknown land. His shinigami power of flight won’t work here. Technically, he is undead, so he really can’t be killed, but he doesn’t want to become Tsuzuki okonomiyaki either. Somehow, he drifts down into a forest, and the next thing he knows, he wakes up next to a pretty brunette. At first, he’s thinking he might have had a fling with this girl, but when she wakes up, he notices that she looks so much like him that they could be fraternal twins. He then remembers what the Count had said about the books. The Count is using the members of the Summons Department as his characters, and he used Tsuzuki as a reference to this girl.
The story looks to be historical fiction, set in the early 19th Century, with a very European look, but we don’t know what nation it is set in. The Count is a nobleman that lords over a fiefdom, and the girl has caught his eye, and the Count wishes to take her as his second wife. Tatsumi is the nobleman’s butler, and Hisoka is cast as his son. Even Watari has a role as a alchemist, but this little story is not going to follow the plotline set up for it, because Tsuzuki is an outsider, and he is going to twist this story so much, no one will recognise it when he gets done.
This is one of the more fun stories in the series that Miss Matsushita wrote before she had to take a medical hiatus from her work due to a massive hand injury. She is once again working on Yami no Matsuei, but I have only been able to find translated books up to volume 11. There is a very emotional tie between all the characters, good and bad, and sometimes horrifying. If you love shojo manga, then you need to check out this retro gem of a manga that is a mix of horror, comedy, romance, and fantasy.