Plot: After a strange man wanders into a street naked while crazily babbling to the people around him, he accidentally ends up dead. When his body is examined, they discover that the reason for his crazed behavior was actually an illness caused filaria which is usually transmitted through mosquitoes in Botswana. However, they’re in Japan and it’s the middle of winter, making the likelihood of mosquito bites extremely low. Someone is purposely breeding the disease in Japan and spreading it throughout the city, setting to make a complete outbreak over the country. But what is the true nature of filaria, and why is someone spreading it across the city?
Breakdown: Manhole is basically a mystery or thriller manga involving the strange case of filaria that is spreading throughout the town. Explaining what filaria is might be a spoiler in itself, but let’s just say that it’s not really a lethal disease if you have enough willpower. It will take only your right eye if you do, but if you don’t you could easily end up dead.
The case takes a lot of interesting twists and turns as we follow our investigators and subsequent main characters of Inoue and Mizoguchi, a somewhat rookie and veteran cop respectively. These two bounce off of each other very well and while we get really no backstory on them whatsoever, their characters really seem real and are both really likable in their own respects. Inoue took a bit of time for me to actually get into liking her character, but she was never annoying or unlikable to me.
The story is very intriguing. While it really seems like bio-terrorism from the getgo, the actual purpose behind the spread of the disease is equal parts tragic, sad and creepy. Basically a biological version of Saw, in a way.
The art is gorgeously detailed in both environments and character designs, though I do have to say that there are some instances where the art looks like it kinda doesn’t blend in quite well like with Inoue’s facial design. Everyone is drawn to look very realistic yet Inoue’s design leans a bit more toward traditional anime style. The angles and shading choices are spot on, and it’s also one of the few books to have such disgustingly detailed artwork, meant in a complimentary way I assure you, to actually make me cringe and get goosebumps. It is some deliciously grotesque artwork sometimes.
Bottomline: This is a fantastic mystery, and an intriguing case with a great focus, characters and even antagonists. The artwork is superb in even the tiniest of details, and while it’s not particularly scary it will likely give you the chills a few times with the nature of the disease/parasite. It’s also at a great length, though it does occasionally feel like it’s dragging a small bit. I’d recommend it to anyone with a love of crime dramas, creepy visuals and antagonists with legit stories.
Additional Information and Notes:
Manhole was written and drawn by Tetsuya Tsutsui.
Year: 2004 – 2006
Recommended Audience: There is some seriously gross imagery here, both in terms of the effects of the disease and gore. There’s also self-harm/suicide, swearing, hinted animal abuse-ish-kinda, and several instances of non-sexual nudity though there is sexual language as well as mentions of rape. 17+