From birth, we’re taught to be ourselves under all circumstances, never to succumb to the pressure of our peers, only to become something that ultimately we are not. Children, as inexperienced as they are, often do not go about their young lives following this frame of mind, instead they will do whatever it is they can to fit in so as to not be seen as “odd“, “weird“, “strange“, or anything else that would lead to their social outcasting. As you grow older, despite the fact that some social circles never change, you begin to learn that it matters not what others think, and that going through life while staying true to yourself is a road very much worth travelling.
Narimiya Wataru’s situation, similar but unlike that of any other human child, is one that can only be described as…twisted. Now that Peke and himself have become great “friends“, others with similar companions belonging to a renegade group of murderous youths named “Carnival” are coming for him, but why exactly? Well, it could have something to do with his escape the volume before wherein which he slipped through the grasp of “Carnival” higher-up Sanada Tsukasa, and it could also have something to do with the fact that, unlike all “Carnival” members, Wataru refuses to use his “Friend” to commit homicide. Regardless, Wataru now has a price on his head, and walking the thin line between life and death is quickly proving to be too much for this terror-stricken young adult.
Thankfully his “Friend” Peke has been there to back him up all the way, and now that he’s met a small team of other children with “Friends” who aren’t associated with “Carnival“, he may just be able to take this organisation down once and for all, going back to living a life as normal as he possibly could after baring witness to the carnage that is “Carnival’s” ambition.
In a small mountainous village in rural Japan, strange creatures lurk. A young boy, friendless and neglected, hears a distant voice calling out to him. He soon discovers a new “friend” that will transform his life forever.
He learns that there is a hidden world of monsters that seek to befriend young children, and together, they must enter a horrifying death match. Watch what really happens when kids with no conscience get hold of monstrous friends to do their bidding. – Seven Seas
Tomodachi X Monster, upon release of it’s very first volume, was immediately pinned as an edgy knock-off of the Pokemon franchise. In 2016, this is a seemingly normal occurrence, with every single monster-taming-based piece of media being negatively compared to that of Pokemon. I found that the first volume of Tomodachi X Monster featured a subtle depth to both it’s story and it’s cast of characters that simple “parodies” tend not to bother with. It is now, after reading volume two, abundantly clear that Tomodachi X Monster does indeed feature a level of reality much more striking than just that of the real-world implications of monster battling.
Having seen a great deal of gruesome deaths for the very first time in his life, Wataru now shows signs of having severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Within the first chapter of volume two, Wataru snaps in the middle of class as the two boys sitting next to him pretend to shoot and kill one another in what was played off as a childish game. He screams, and runs out of the classroom hoping to physically escape from the terror that is within his mind, but ultimately only does so thanks to the interference of Peke who comforts the boy in his time of need. This alone was enough for the writing to impress me exponentially, but it continued from there with other characters making certain choices based on factors that are never brought to the surface in any form of pop culture media. Unfortunately it would ruin your experience for me to go in detail.
Yoshihiko Inui is not just a great writer, but also a fantastic artist. His style plays jump-rope with the line between Shonen and Horror as he shows these children with their mostly-cute creatures only to then display to the audience their twisted side inevitably followed up by their mangled corpse. It is a gradual process that I am now overtly aware of and yet am still blindsided by every single time. Inui knows how to inject as much emotion into his illustrations as he does his writing, proving to the audience time and time again that he can portray the same level of fear with dialogue as he can without it. He knows how to place panels affectively, almost forcing audiences to second guess turning the page thanks to the implication that beyond what you see here is only more death. Reading Tomodachi X Monster is quite an experience.
Being a fan of gore and body horror in media, Tomodachi X Monster stands out to me like not much else does. What began as a purchased based on a whim has now become a process wherein which I stalk the pages of online book retailers waiting for the release of the next volume. The short series has a great flow that compels you to read the entire volumes in single sessions; something I often never do simply because I like to elongate my experience with Manga. It features a story that Shonen fans will enjoy but with a level of death and violence more akin to that of a Junji Ito Manga than something Masashi Kishimoto would create. It walks very thin lines, but it does it with grace and finesse. Before this I had never heard of Yoshihiko Inui but from here on out I will be on the look out for what’s to come next from this budding young Mangaka. Simply, I think Tomodachi X Monster is a fantastic series for anyone in need of a short, hard-hitting story about fighting monsters and endless despair. While it’s not for everyone, those of you out there who have a penchant for the dark and weird will absolutely adore it.