The Summer Hikaru Died Volume 1 Combines Love and Horror Into a Mystery

The Summer Hikaru Died Volume 1 cover of Hikaru smiling and holding up a peace sign with his fingers.

The Summer Hikaru Died Volume 1 is tonally confusing. But that’s also what makes it engaging. The reader never knows what direction this story heads. One moment, it feels like a love story. The next, it is horror. With Hikaru dead and his best friend Yoshiki unable to accept that, the door opens for disturbing imagery, frights, and possible love as something returns in Hikaru’s body. The Summer Hikaru Died Volume 1 mixes genres, leaving manga readers guessing what’s next. 

Created by Mokumokuren, the story begins in a similar fashion to The Detective Is Already Dead. Translated by Ajani Oloye and lettered by Abigail Blackman, the Yen Press manga starts with Yoshiki and Hikaru eating “frusty-cold” ice cream outside in the summer blaze. This is after Hikaru’s disappearance in the mountains six months ago. He recently returned. After bantering, Yoshiki asks if Hikaru is Hikaru. But his phrasing makes it clear he knows the truth. Then terror sets in as half of Hikaru’s face peels away. Hikaru clutches Yoshiki, pleading with him to stay quiet. After all, he does not want to kill him. So, murder is on the table.

The Summer Hikaru Died Volume 1 Feels Like A Love Story Wrapped in Horror

Their relationship brings to mind Kwaidan and Tales From the Darkside. Cue “you promised you’d never tell!” Hikaru promises to remain by Yoshiki’s side if he does not tell anyone. Yoshiki agrees. Though he knows Hikaru is dead, for the most part, whatever inhabits Hikaru’s body behaves like the real one. While Yoshiki keeps the secret, it’s not easy. Their suspicious classmates hint at problems in the future. So, it blurs the emotional line of how they feel and for whom.

Many moments suggest it’s more than friendship between the pair. There’s a scene where Hikaru offers to let Yoshiki feel what’s inside his body. During that, Hikaru basks in Yoshiki’s warm touch inside his chest. It’s a love triangle with two bodies. Yoshiki’s feelings are for Hikaru, not necessarily who is inside Hikaru. It’s explores layers of feelings. Yoshiki cannot accept the loss, so he accepts the stand-in. As for what’s in Hikaru, they have Hikaru’s memories. So, it’s impossible to differentiate between how they feel for Yoshiki and what their borrowed memories do. So is Yoshiki in love with Hikaru? Hikaru’s body? Or the new inhabitant?

The Summer Hikaru Died Volume 1 cover of Hikaru smiling and holding up a peace sign with his fingers.
The Summer Hikaru Died Volume 1 cover. Yen Press.

Supernatural Forest

Around them, there are odd occurrences, including someone dying.The Summer Hikaru Died can take the path of whatever is inhabiting Hikaru, as the villain, or something inevitable and necessary. When an old woman calls Hikaru, Nounukisama asks what he’s doing away from the forest; it implies he has to be in the woods. So, that can be himself or something else. In addition, their friend could not look into the forest while walking near it. It sounds ludicrous. But looking further builds the terror. It’s chilling to have something else control one’s body.

The whole manga, artistically, feels similar or inspired by horror manga staple creator, Junji Ito. It’s easy to imagine it as part of Ito’s eerie world. This stands out when readers see what’s inside Hikaru. Any manner of horror can leap out of that forest. It’s unclear what lurks within, and the unknown adds fear. Hikaru is a whole other issue.

Questions That Need Answers

The Summer Hikaru Died Volume 1 sets up themes of love and the inability to accept loss. But it uses horror elements to convey it. Yoshiki and Hikaru’s conversation at the end is a perfect cliffhanger. It compels readers to check out the next volume. While The Summer Hikaru Died Volume 1 skimps on character backstory, it lays out a mystery that needs unraveling.

There’s a creeping dread that climaxes at the end. It’s that “oh no” moment. So another volume is essential. Mokumokuren’s use of shadows creates tension as the story progresses. Despite the summer setting, there’s a pervasive chill throughout. As a fan of romance, mystery, and horror akin to Junji ItoThe Summer Hikaru Died Volume 1 is a refreshing and eerie opener to a promising series. 

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