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Review: Amnesia Labyrinth, vol. 1

Souji returns home after a year at boarding school to find his brother missing, his sisters as mysterious and aloof as ever, and three teens from his school murdered. He has reason to believe that the three things are connected, but when a perky girl at his school–Yukako Sasai–starts bugging him to investigate the murders, Souji realizes that he may have to put his own orderly life on the line in order to keep her safe.

Amnesia Labyrinth, vol. 1
Story by Nagaru Tanigawa; Art by Natsumi Kohane
Age Rating: Older Teen/16+
Seven Seas, February 2011, ISBN 978-1-934876-93-0
192 pages, $10.99

Tanigawa is most famous for his Haruhi Suzumiya novels, adapted into a anime series popular in both Japan and the States. Instead of the off-beat science fiction of Suzumiya’s world, here Tanigawa plays with horror and mystery. Souji clearly knows more than he’s letting on and his family is certainly not going to star in any Hallmark movies. After all, his three sisters–one full-blood, one half, and one step–may be murderers and, on top of that, he’s sleeping with his half-sister, much to the consternation of the other two, who would be more than happy to take her place. Yukako contrasts nicely with Souji. She’s talkative and a little overbearing, but her heart’s in the right place. Unfortunately she’s also extremely intelligent and completely unaware of the danger she’s about to walk into. Watching Shouji try to manipulate everyone around him to keep himself and Yukako safe is what keeps readers moving through the beginning of this story.

Kohane’s art is sharp, full of feral smiles and vulpine eyes. Readers are left unnerved by small details, such as worried faces at seemingly normal comments. There’s a bit too much talking, mostly on the part of Yukako, but Nan Rhymer’s translation is sassy and tight, adding to both the drama and the humor. Volume one is clearly only set up and it bogs down in the middle, but it has just enough drama to compel readers towards the second book (due out in June). There is no graphic violence yet, but there is some full-frontal nudity and the aforementioned incest. Amnesia Labyrinth is not a must have–except for Haruhi Suzumiya fans–but it’s an interesting enough read. Recommend this one to readers who enjoy psychological manga such as Afterschool Nightmare or Higurashi: When They Cry.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Seven Seas Manga.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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