Youka Nitta’s Otodama 1: Voice from the Dead

BL manga legend Youka Nitta’s Otodama: Voice from the Dead, is not BL. It’s a crime thriller, and it’s a good one.

Kaname Otonashi is a former police investigator who was known as “the Ears of the Police” — his hearing is so sensitive that he can hear the voices of the dead. Yasuhide Nagatsuma is another former policeman, now a private investigator and Kaname’s close friend; Kaname’s abilities sometimes come in handy for Hide’s clients. Besides, Kaname lets Hide share his apartment. Hide’s older brother is still with the police and now a Senior Superintendent. The three are brought together again when Hide’s client is the target of a serial killer being pursued by his older brother. Shoei Kodama, a photographer picked up as a “person of interest” in the serial killer investigation, proves to be more directly involved in the next case.

I’m going to start off this time with the graphic work: this is Youka Nitta at her height, full, rich drawing, elegantly shaded, and possessed of a marvelous clarity. There are two chapters in this one, and the beginning of each is printed in half-tones that are simply beautiful. It’s also the best differentiation in characters I’ve seen from her, and the women, unlike some of her earlier works, are just as individual and distinctly realized as the men — all of whom are gorgeous. Nitta also seems to have freed up the page designs compared to earlier works: Layouts are very fluid, not only in the action scenes, but also in the “psychological confrontation” scenes, of which there are many.

Which leads me to the meat: there’s a good amount of depth in this one, and while one can, if one is on the lookout for such things, spot a boys’ love undercurrent — Hide is ferociously protective of Kaname — the story really is a crime thriller. Given that, and that it’s a crime thriller by Youka Nitta, you can guess that there are some really weird people wandering around. There are also events in the past that are hinted at but never explained (and I suspect that more hints are going to come out as the series progresses) that play into the character dynamics, particularly between Hide and his older brother.

And as for the “thriller” part of this, let me tell you a story: I started reading this on the train on the way home from work and had to stop — I was so close to the edge of my seat that I almost fell off, and you don’t willingly give up a seat on the subway. I won’t mention the adrenalin rushes.

And if you really get hooked, Volume 2 was published in English in 2014.

(Digital Manga Publishing, 2010)

About Robert Tilendis

Robert M. Tilendis lives a deceptively quiet life. He has made money as a dishwasher, errand boy, legal librarian, arts administrator, shipping expert, free-lance writer and editor, and probably a few other things he’s tried very hard to forget about. He has also been a student of history, art, theater, psychology, ceramics, and dance. Through it all, he has been an artist and poet, just to provide a little stability in his life. Along about January of every year, he wonders why he still lives someplace as mundane as Chicago; it must be that he likes it there.

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