Even with limited character designs and storylines that don’t enough hit as hard as it takes in the end, it’s hard to fault Rumiko Takahashiis a shorter job. This is partly because she doesn’t extend her ideas to translucency in order to continue a series – in this collection’s short stories, Takahashi is able to tell a full story without filling it out. That she can do this when most of her works are in the thirty volume range (at least) is impressive, because as any author will tell you, it’s almost a completely different skill to write an effective short story than writing a longer work. or current series. While Takahashi is certainly no stranger to short manga, it’s been a while since a collection was released in English, so if you’ve only read his long-running series, this is a great opportunity to see some what else is she capable of.
The stories in this collection are mostly horror, though they could also be categorized into dark magic realism, if you felt like it. The most recent of the book, the history of the title came the mirror, dates from 2014 and is perhaps the most overtly horror-based. The plot is that a mysterious mirror appears on the palms of people’s hands, forcing them to purify monsters or be killed. In fact, we see two people die: middle schoolers Nana and Eito, both of whom fail to use their mirrors properly. In all honesty, it’s because the mirrors force them to first extract “monsters” from nearby people, stomp on them, and then push the evil through their bodies – from their feet and through the mirrors in their hands. As you can imagine, this is not pleasant and very difficult to achieve. On the bright side, the miners have a rollback, but if they don’t figure out what they did wrong, they will keep dying over and over again. It’s an interesting take on the time loop story, but the ending doesn’t quite live up to the rest of the play; it really feels like it ends too cleanly. It’s a shame, because otherwise it’s a very good story and one of the two strongest in the collection.
The second most striking is Beautiful flower from 2003. In this play, a woman’s stalker leaves smelly flowers everywhere she goes, only everyone thinks they smell good. She’s not only scared of having a stalker in the first place, but the fact that everyone seems to describe him differently (though still handsome) and thinks the flowers smell spectacular makes her worry that something is wrong. really not in the world around her. There’s a wonderful sense of horror in this play because we’re never 100% sure what’s going on. Why is she immune to the smell of the flower? Or is she the only one who can feel him for who he really is, and why should that be? Her growing fear is well done, which makes her feel uneasy as she is increasingly contradicted by all the other women around her. Who is the gaslighter? Unfortunately, that’s what makes the resolution feel like such a bummer. Although the solution is quite clever, it also has the same problem as came the mirrorit’s the end a: it’s too soft.
That’s a problem with the three most horror-centric plays. The third, revenge doll (2013), about a struggling manga artist who receives a cursed doll from a fan and doesn’t hesitate to use it, is a bit more impactful in that the main character is really a despicable person who has no problem doing terrible things to people who don’t really deserve it. Takahashi makes us see how he twisted his opinions to make himself think they’re treating him really cruelly, and that’s the most effective element of the story, especially because while we to understand why he thinks that, we are certainly not guided to I am okay with him. There’s also something pleasantly blasé about the manga’s worldview about this piece which contrasts nicely with the essay that ends the volume, so again it’s a shame that Takahashi pulls his punches a bit at the end, giving her more of a moan than a bang for a finale. Like with Beautiful flower clever; it’s just not enough to make the story stand out.
Both comic stories fare a little better when it comes to endings, with With cat (1999) being the stronger of the two. In this story, childhood friends break up after the boy blames the girl (and her cat) for his fall from a tree. During their freshman year of high school, they start connecting again…because her cat spirit possesses her arm. It turns out that the cat, who is almost twenty years old, has acquired the power to understand human language, and he listens to her person talk about the boy she has had a love/hate relationship with for years. As the cat passes, he decides to do something about it and more or less forces them closer when he takes possession of the boy’s right arm. There’s a sweetness to the story that’s paired with wackier qualities that really work, and it’s probably the story with the most successful ending. The other comedy The star has a thousand faces (2010), is much more slapstick with misunderstandings as the basis of humor. That’s not bad, but there’s not much to dissect, focusing on a starlet who nearly finished her TV series finale because she mistakenly thinks she killed someone. one after learning that his co-star likes someone else. It’s cute, but not much more.
The final piece, a common reminiscence of debuting in the manga with Mitsuru Adachi, is the most unique. Alternating points of view, Adachi and Takahashi discuss their journey to writing for Shōnen Sunday, and a tangential awareness of each other as creators before they finally meet. It’s interesting and charming at the same time, and if the plot is a little light, it’s always a treat to read a collaboration of these two. Generally, came the mirror is a good look at what Takahashi can do when she’s not writing installations for her latest series, and while the strongest is probably Beautiful flower, which manages to sound menacing without ever fully indulging in horror art or overt tropes, the whole book is a good read overall. The resolutions of most of them (except With cat) don’t hit hard enough, and that brings things down a bit in terms of overall enjoyment. But it’s still a nice break from Takahashi’s longer works and a nice reminder that she really is the queen of shonen manga.