Manga Reviews

A Town Filled With Murder & Butterflies: Thoughts on Nijigahara Holograph

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(Via Goodreads)

Nijigahara Holograph (虹ヶ原ホログラフ)

(Published in 2006, Translation in 2014)

By Inio Asano

Translated By Matt Thorn

Nijigahara Holograph is about a group of kids living in a town that is haunted by a rumor. There is said to be a monster that resides in the river tunnel and to appease this monster, the children made human sacrifices. The story is told in two separate timelines; in which the students and adults must confront the sins they have committed in the past.

As I mentioned above, this story is set in two different timelines: the past (when the characters are children) and in the present (when those children are now adults). In the past, these children bullied and tormented their fellow classmates. Thus, we are able to see how the past influences these children’s future. For example, the troublesome bully, Kohta, violently hurt and bullied his classmates and friends which result in him committing murder such as the store manager he worked with when he is older. His acting out seems to be because of the girl he likes, Arie, who’s in a coma state after his fellow classmates bullied her to death. His violent actions is a coping mechanism for him but it also seems that he lost the will to live after losing someone he cares about dearly. Kohta is just one example of how the “present” is reflected by the past.

Not only do the children form bad habits but the adults also make poor decisions and mistakes. When Arie suffered, her teacher, Miss Sakaki, turned the other cheek and ignored that her students were bullying one another. She regretted it later on as she felt guilty and responsible for the well-being of Arie, and so when Amahiko faced some issues with bullying and suicidal thoughts, Miss Sakaki tried her best to appease the situation and be a positive support for him.

The story is presented to readers in two different timelines in order to present how the past influence a character’s way of thinking and the choices he or she makes.  If one doesn’t develop good habits and make moral decisions as a child, they may end up having a difficult time being a good adult. It is to say that the root of criminal behavior is from a child’s development—how a child grew up and the people he or she is surrounded by. I think this is the main message that Inio Asano is conveying in this manga through the two storylines.

Another interesting aspect of this manga is the butterfly symbol. Every chapter there seems to be a character that sees or is engulfed in butterflies. This usually happens when someone dies or commits an act of murder as well as when a person succumbs to fear and anxiety. I think the butterflies are in reference to the concept of “the butterfly effect” because the past actions of the students and adults have a negative impact on their futures.

Overall, Nijigahara Holograph is a psychological thriller and the premise is fascinating. However, there are some gaping flaws in the storyline. This manga is rather experimental in its use of storytelling as we are given two different storylines that are somehow connected to one another. There’s a connection between both the past and present but how the author ties it all together is very loose. There are some lingering questions a reader will have at the end. One question I had was, “What’s the purpose of this story?” The reason as to why I have this question is due to the fact that readers aren’t given a satisfying conclusion nor any real substance as to what the main plotline is in the beginning (readers are left to guess).

This manga is a great read for people that are interested in abstract plots and who like to contemplate on these existential questions. I would describe this manga as experimentally odd and seriously traumatizing.

3.5/5

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5 comments

  1. I actually just read this manga in one sitting a few days ago, and I have to say I agree with your thoughts on it.

    It was definitely a good read, but the experimental presentation of its storyline often left me disoriented and confused at several points requiring me to look back and see if I’d missed something to get my bearings.

    Still a very good manga, even if I was left with one or two questions by the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Inio Asano will forever be a mystery to me. How he could make something like Solanin and then finding out he made something like this is a little out of left field. I like his ability to create unique works that feel distinct to him, even if they can be difficult to get through (much like A Girl on the Shore talk about…awkward). Being that I want to read more of his works this one seems up my alley even if it may be a bit too experimental. The way you describe the two storylines certainly piqued my interest in this work. Well I can’t say I’m excited for the traumatizing parts. It sounds interesting how they show the differences between the present and the past and how people come to be the way they are. I shall order it posthaste! Looking forward to it and thank you for the review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Nijigahara Holograph would be a good read for you. This is one of Asano’s earlier works so I would assume that he was trying to figure out the type of writing style he wanted to convey still. I have yet to read A Girl on the Shore but that is actually next up in my manga reviews so stay tuned for that. As for the traumatizing parts, they were a bit disturbing for me but I don’t know if you will feel the same–I think you will be fine.

      Liked by 1 person

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