The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window vol. 5 – Tomoko Yamashita

4 out of 5

While Erika Hiura’s role takes a backseat to developing Detective Hanzawa further in volume 5, this is not a delaying tactic: so well woven into the Tricornered Window narrative are Tomoko Yamashita’s characters that we can take the typical comic book route of seemingly extracurricular asides and have it prove out to be some of the most devastating additions to the story yet.

We start with some further playful toying of homoerotic subtext between Mikado and Hiyakawa, but this is also in its evolved state: past giggly you-two-look-like-boyfriends scenes to dialogue / interactions that walk a tight line between cute and then suddenly serious; a party to suss out a ghost involves inviting Mukae, who represents this duality exactly, a “better” pairing for Mikado who can’t resist pointing out how dangerous the mysterious allure of Hiyakawa can be. But I love the maturity here: that Mukae isn’t just played up as a hero to swoop in, rather still putting the responsibility of Mikado’s emotions back on the man himself – i.e. I will tell you what I see, and it’s up to you what you do with that. Yamashita has subverted the typical bad-boy appeal of Twilight stuff into an adult’s contemplation on relationships, fascinatingly complexified by the addition of these spiritual aspects, allowing things to be explored in a less concrete (and thus often more interesting, and deeper) context.

We then switch over to Hanzawa, first juxtaposing his fact-based mentality to that of his superstitious wife’s – a woman he clearly adores – and here we do briefly intersect with Hiura, which suddenly drops all of this emotional philosophizing straight back into the forward thrust of the story (the fomenting curses; Hiura’s ties to some singularly led / mob-tied agency encouraging these curses), which is explored via a flashback to an early case of the detective’s, in which he meets Hiyakawa…

I knew this was coming from the anime, but it’s still shockingly brutal, and heavy, the way Yamashita presents it here, making Hiyakawa that much more compelling (and frightening) of a character. And to be clear, this is all done via a lot of off-panel / inbetween panel work – some really skilled indirect storytelling.

The knock in the rating here is in the way Yamashita uses tailless word balloons, and overlapping dialogue. In the party sequence, this works well to capture the way conversations bumps into each other in a crowd, but when the dialogue is meant to be more linear, I find it really problematic piecing together who’s saying what, even when it’s only two characters. More lighthearted moments this isn’t necessarily an issue, but there are some heavier scenes here where pausing to figure out who’s speaking can take you out of the moment. At five collections in, I still haven’t gotten used to this flow, so I’m feeling like it’s more of a bug than a feature.