4 out of 5
A continuation – for the better – of all of the things Tomoko Yamashita has done incredibly well thus far in the third volume of The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window.
The story of curse-expellers / curse-makers has excelled at character expansion in a way that’s perfect for the comic form, and yet rarely done with such patience: taking full advantage of the combination of words and art to use expression, and the moments inbetween dialogue to inform us about who people “are” (or want to be, or might be), Yamashita lets us in, bit by bit, on Mikado, Hiyakawa, and Erika Hiura – the latter being excitingly brought in to the story in a way that goes against casting her as, initially, some sort of mystical figure. This is as surprising as fleshing out cop Hanzawa beyond his terse stereotype; it’s very minimal, but just the discussion on wanting to understand the un-understandable adds a human note to his role that wouldn’t be “necessary” to the plot, but makes the world all the more real.
These interactions – and how interpersonal relationships mimic curses / spells, and how the characters’ emotions then filter through the same – are all fascinating in their own right; framing it with the case-by-case plotting is a smart way to iterate on that. But Yamashita then applies the same patience to the growing story of hidden pasts (for, like, everyone – Mikado’s missing father; Hiyakawa’s unknown history) and whatever business Erika is up to, which starts to involve “strong boxes” of curses – locations loaded with excess curses – and her being protected by the yakuza…
This continuation of all good things has the flip side of bringing along some of the minor ungood elements as well: Yamashita’s characterizations are excellent, but she still struggles with effectively portraying some of the aethereal stuff in an understandable fashion, and when characters start speaking telepathically, while most of it is telegraphed well to show us who’s speaking, it still takes some rereading and work to make sure you’re hearing it in the proper character’s voice. Lastly, the gay double-entendres have become somewhat tiresome. It’s possible this stuff is more subtle in the original language, but while its overtness was pretty funny in volume 1, and then evolved into more over-the-top gags in volume 2, it seems like discussing Mikada and Hiyakawa as a gay couple is open fare, plus there’re more intriguing emotional layers to the way they’re entangled without having to fall back on repeated puns about penetration. It’s not super distracting, and not as frequent as it was, it just seems like a boring joke at this point I hope we can leave behind, since the maturity of the storytelling has otherwise moved far past it.