Hit the “Random” button and see what comes up! In this feature, we take a look at whatever manga the Random Number God decides to throw at us and find out if it’s worth your time.
This time: Tokage, by Yaku Haibara
At last, a good manga! How long has it been? At least a month, which perhaps doesn’t sound like much, but with this feature it seems like eternity at times.
The eponymous Tokage is a wandering spirit, the only one of its kind. For eight hundred years, Tokage has been removed from the cycle of death and rebirth, having committed an atrocity that cannot be repented. He simply migrates from body to body, possessing a recently-dead corpse and reanimating it until it becomes unusable. The only obvious outward sign is a strange tattoo of a lizard (since tokage means lizard in Japanese) that appears on the body. Lastly, Tokage requires a touchstone of sorts to replenish his spiritual power, lest he be ejected from his new vessel.
This time, Tokage has reincarnated in the body of a young shrine maiden, and his touchstone happens to be Shinobu, a boy who lives at the shrine. However, the head monk is aware of Tokage’s existence and has erected several spiritual barriers around the complex. While this means Tokage can’t venture far from the shrine, it also means nothing can get in. The sheer density of Tokage’s ancient soul weighs on the fabric of reality, drawing spiritual aberrations towards him like iron to a lodestone. And they aren’t the only things around; the government wants to seal Tokage away to keep things smooth, and others seek him out believing that consuming his flesh grants immortality. And Tokage himself is on the prowl, searching for the one who cursed him so long ago, so he can finally reach an end to his story of 800 years.
While this might sound like a setup for a relatively action-heavy tale, Tokage is anything but. Most of it focuses on the awkward relationship between Shinobu and Tokage, and conflicts are just as often solved by talking it out rather than a fist to the face. Even the antagonists rarely have directly malicious motives, instead just acting on what they believe to be right. While the idea of tragic backstories is perhaps overplayed in general, this manga handles them fairly well, particularly with the flashback chapter detailing Tokage’s start of darkness.
Perhaps it’s just the whiplash from all the bad manga talking, but I quite enjoyed Tokage. Some of the ending twists were a tad too obvious, but nothing really stands out as overly offensive. The art and storytelling are both solid, and while the ending is a little sappy, everything has the appropriate amount of emotional catharsis. Overall it’s one of the better things I’ve found while doing Random Manga Theatre, and I hope all two of you who read this spend the time to check it out.