Review Koyoharu Gotouge – Short Stories – Manga

In October 2019, the Demon Slayer frenzy is in full swing. The television broadcast of the first season of the anime has just concluded, and the various volumes of the manga are in the top sellers. There is an obvious phenomenon around the series of Koyoharu Gotôge, a rather rare explosion due to the relation to the animated adaptation, expanding the work to another audience who discovers the original story at the same time. The manga is sold by tens of thousands of volumes, a craze which will continue in 2020 with the release of the film “The infinity train” which will become a real social phenomenon.
So, when this meteoric rise begins, the Shûeisha edition has the good idea to publish a collection of the first short stories of its author (very strongly supposed to be the author). It is not necessarily given to all mangaka to see such a work appear so quickly, publishers generally benefiting from strong enthusiasm around their artists, as demonstrated by Tatsuki Fujimoto who recently saw his first works condensed into two works.

For our part, Panini is also taking advantage of the success of Koyoharu Gotôge and its series to offer us all the titles available. As the publication of Demon Slayer slowly but surely approaches its end, today we can read the first four stories of the artist, in a collection quite simply called “Koyoharu Gotouge: Short stories”.

These stories are a true testimony of the first stammering steps of the mangaka since they all date from before Demon Slayer, the publication of which dates back to February 2016. Four stories published between 2013 and 2015 and which allow us to see at the same time how the author was doing on her first works, what was her emerging aesthetic touch, and what links we can see there with her only (for now) long series.

Drawn in 2013 but never offered to the readership before this collection, the story “Kagarigari – Those who hunt the hunters” is the prototype of Demon Slayer, and the story that left the most traces in Tanjirô’s adventure. Thanks to this first one-shot, Gotôge received an honorable mention in the competition for new mangaka Jump Treasure, a first feat of arms years before the global success of his work.
In Kagarigari, we follow a hunt for a demon by several of his, more peaceful, before a human hunter tangled up wielding a sword. The first ingredients of Demon Slayer are here: The duality between humans and demons is presented with nuance, immediately claiming that some of these creatures blend in so as not to disturb those around them, while Tamayo and Yushiro already appear, faithfully. to what they will be later. Surprisingly, Muzan’s “prototype” is here in the right camp. For this notion of inheritance, the story is pleasant to follow, but another form of interest will not fail to surprise: The confused narration of history. By his admission, Koyoharu Gotôge produced a largely imperfect result. If it could cost her a professional publication at the time, the one-shot today has the form of a testimony to be accepted for what it is, and which demonstrates the progression of the author as well as the way she reinterpreted these early elements to make it, three years later, the Demon Slayer building.

“The Monjushiro Brothers”, the second story, was born in 2014. After the death of her murdered father, the young Shizuka finds herself in an orphanage. It was there that she met the Monjushiro brothers, one impulsive and the other a thoughtful pianist, both acting as mercenaries for a fee. This is how they accept the mission entrusted by Shizuka: To kill the yakuza responsible for the death of his father. But there is nothing very human about the duo, so it is by using their abilities that they will carry out this commitment …
Garnished with a touch of eccentricity, Les Frères Monjushiro is a tale that contrasts with the elegance we know from Demon Slayer. Here, the two fighting protagonists have nothing as graceful as swordsmen, and display insectoid appearances that one would almost suspect the influence of Kimera Ant’s arc from the Hunter X Hunter manga. The result is a rather peculiar story in the mood but which, unlike Kagarigari, does not display narrative confusion. No doubts, Koyoharu Gotôge was already making progress.

Next comes “Monsieur Rokkotsu”, the third story originally published in Shônen Jump in 2014. Still anchored in the field of the supernatural, the story follows Abara, a purifier in charge of exorcising individuals imbued with malice. In the idea, we stay in the perspective of Demon Slayer, presenting a hero endowed with talent in charge of confronting evil beings on the mystical level. More fluid and precise than the previous one-shots, this one is perhaps the best paced. And beyond any qualitative consideration, it is undoubtedly its ambiguous hero, Abara, who gives this little work its charm.

The book ends with “Zigzag of the Fly Garden”, the fourth short story initially published in 2015, also in the popular Shônen Jump. The title is taken from the name of the protagonist, a young man flirting on the line between good and bad, which would almost make him an anti-hero. Faithful to its narrative custom, Gotôge presents here another form of hunter of unhealthy entities with this individuals chasing the curse throwers. Between the eccentricity of its characters, their ambiguities and the touches of humor that the author introduces despite the serious situations, the story is similar in this way to the paw that will give Demon Slayer.

Each of these stories therefore follows its own path, but also not some paterns. In its quality of testimony, this collection of short stories attests to the direction that the mangaka wanted to take for an ambitious work. It is obvious that each of these stories has its strengths as well as its limits, and that each story cannot appeal to every reader. But it’s always nice to observe the ideas that sprouted from young authors, how they progressed from one work to another, and what artistic path these mangaka followed. For Koyoharu Gotôge, whose ghost of Demon Slayer, which is the work that directly follows this work, cannot be erased, the experience is particularly satisfying if one appreciates the author’s marked style. His short stories are not without flaws and more than the hope of reading accomplished works, we take pleasure in appreciating their different nuances, qualitative as artistic. In addition to the good time spent on these scenarios, it is also the compilation of the first copies of an artist who does not lack talent and who will mark her decade, which we like to discover. Beyond the desire to surf the adventure of Tanjirô and his family, Panini was therefore right to offer us without waiting too long the collection of the first works of Koyoharu Gotôge.