Improvement over volume 1
Volume two of “Hanako and the Terror of Allegory” is a marked improvement over the disappointing Volume 1. The translation kinks that marred the first volume seem to have been worked out, and the English flows much smoother than before. On top of that, artist Sakae Esuno (Future Diary) has hit more of a stride with the series, relying less of cheap gags and delivering some actual horror. Even then, the series is still not of the same caliber as “Future Diary” and suffers from some major flaws.
Volume two starts out with Kanae drunkenly wishing she was a pop idol, and inadvertently summoning up the Demon in the Mirror to grant her wish. Kanae is a terrible singer but everyone is still compelled to buy her music, and only the vague nature of her unfillable wish keeps her from being dragged down to hell. Next up comes the Teke-Teke, an allegory composed of the severed torso of a woman who is said to strike down other young women leaving them as damaged as themselves. Allegory Detective Daisuke Aso and his assistant Hanako from the Bathroom are having no luck tracking down this elusive allegory and more and more schoolgirls are dying every day. The next story is more personal, featuring Kanae’s cousin Chieri who has damaged her optic nerve while piercing her ear. The damage continues to spread, and an allegory might just be the cause. Finally, the famous fox-spirit Kokkori san comes out to play and Aso’s own allegory is pressed to the surface in order to deal with the menace, and action from which Aso might not recover.
When “Hanako and the Terror of Allegory” is playing with straight horror, it really shines. The Teke-Teke story is the longest in the book, and by far the best. Sakae Esuno can draw some creepy people, especially faces, and that story was the only one in the book that really grabbed me and had me flipping pages. I can’t remember the last time I read a story in a manga as scary as the Teke-Teke.
Too often however, the weird blend of technology and supernatural that is the core of the story just doesn’t work. As an example, the titular character of Hanako confounds every time she appears. Hanako is herself supposed to be one of these allegories, Hanako from the Bathroom, and the point is even made in one story that she can’t stray too far from a bathroom or she starts to disappear. That actually made her interesting, until a scene a little bit later in the book has Kanae and Hanako out having a picnic with nary a bathroom in sight. Hanako is a supernatural character, but at the same time she is a science genius making all sorts of computer programs and equipment to aid in the allegory hunt. Esuno needs to make some decisions about these characters, what they can and can’t do, then stick with it.