MPD-Psycho No. 1 – Eiji Otsuka

4 out of 5

I’m pretty sure I read MPD-Psycho No. 1 after watching the Takashi Miike-helmed TV series, hoping to get a better sense of how the source material had been adapted or changed.  …Only to feel like the comic was in even more plotting disarray than the show, offering no digestible insights, or giving me any sense as to whether or not I should read any subsequent volumes.  I brushed off the more extreme visuals (bondage-bound ladies, flowers grown out of brains) as something stereotypical to the genre.

Years later, having gotten officially into anime, I started to wander back toward the manga aisle of my LCS, curious to extend my education with something to read.  The artwork of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service immediately stuck out, and a nod of approval from a cashier with whom I’d had some precursory comic chatter suggested I was on an okay path.  The book has a learning curve – it pretty much jumps right into pitter-patter and plotting, not doing the whole bit of introductions and meet-ups that I’d experienced in my American comics – but I found the was easy to get past, and I ended up loving the series.  What else had Otsuka written, I wondered.  Ah, MPD-Psycho.

Rereading it, I have absolutely zero memories of my first go through, but I can tell why this might’ve been off-putting, going into it cold.  If you just skim the visuals alone, you can eye roll at the violence, but Kurosagi has taught me to trust Otsuka’s intentions; yeah, he’s not above giving his artist some twisted gore to draw, but it’s not purely for splatter’s sake: such scenes serve as juxtapositions to plot elements, or purposefully playing with shock value to enrich other aspects.  And there are a boatload of names to remember, even in this first set, as profiler – and multiple personality – Yousuke Kobayashi cycles through four different personas, with various other reporters / detectives / killers / etc. to factor in as well, and just like Kurosagi, there’s that learning curve: we get a flash of Kobayashi being on trial for ‘professional negligence resulting in death,’ then flash back to the leadup to that, to the case in which he killed his perp, then flash forward to when he’s out of jail, and hired by Machi Isono to do profiling work once more.  There’s no cutesy dolling up of the different personalities, they just switch on and off, and the chapters thereafter have Isono, Kobayashi, and his old police partner tracking down some murderers, each with their own twisted m.o.s.  It’s half a complex web of events related to Kobayashi’s various personalities, and half a procedural.  You’re either with it, or a page or so later, you’re going to be lost.

But if you commit to the story – which I likely didn’t do the first time, wanting things handed to me – then it’s very easy to stick with; it’s rather addictive, actually, with Otsuka’s skills at sketching out full characterizations within a couple panels, and at coming up with forever bizarre scenarios for our leads to interact with.

Shou-u Tajima’s art is crisp and clean, matching those characterizations to fully realized visualizations of them, but his layouts do occasionally betray the reading order, with eye direction conflicted over which panel to go to next.

Still, whether prepped by Kurosagi and / or more experiencing MPD-Psycho with different expectations than before, I’m hooked.  Yes, dummy, you should’ve read the subsequent volumes.