What is Manhole manga about?
Manhole is a horror manga story that follows two police officers of Sasahara city. We follow them as they investigate a recent deadly viral outbreak in the area.
It all begins as a naked, distraught-looking man crawls up out of a manhole in the centre of a busy area of the city. He mumbles as he wanders forward, before coming into contact with a student further up the street. Unknown to the student, he has just been infected by the naked stranger, and he will unknowingly begin the spread of the virus.
The virus shortly becomes more and more out of control. However, Police Officers Mizoguchi and Inoue are on the case to reclaim their city from under it’s shadow. But will they discover the truth of the origin of the virus?
A great partnership
I absolutely love the scenes between the two protagonists, Mizoguchi and Inoue. Mizoguchi is a stern man who at first came across as a bit of a dick. But soon enough I couldn’t help but warm to him. It is pretty obvious he does have an affection for his partner, the seemingly-timid police woman Inoue.
There are some genuinely funny moments throughout the Manhole manga, which contrast well with the overall tone of the story. And the comedy is always in how these two lovable characters play off each other. One particular moment when Mizoguchi sends Inoue into a potentially-infected tight space. Only to be told afterwards that he had called in professionals to go in. Her reaction is great, along with her attitude that follows.
It was great to see how Inoue doesn’t remain in a rookie partner role for the full story too. Later she must take on certain parts of the case herself, which allows her full spirit and tenacity to shine through the once-thought-to-be timidness.
A well thought out story
I really enjoyed how different elements of Manhole were connected as the story progressed. Stories from the past get shown to be catalysts for some of the recent events. This never seemed contrived either. The story felt very well thought out and its consistent pacing highlights that fact. Some of the stories I’ve read recently seem to increase the graphic depiction of horror towards the end – it didn’t feel that Tetsuya Tsutsui did this with Manhole.
Don’t get me wrong – I do love stories that get more extreme as they go on, but there is definitely a time and a place. Here, I felt that the story itself is the most important element, and it always felt like it was treated as such. I don’t mean that stronger horror manga have any less of a story – just that Manhole didn’t tend to lean on certain tropes.
The way the detective story was structured also impressed me here. It’s not written as a straight-forward linear narrative. Instead, we sometimes inter-cut with different aspects of the investigation. Sometimes this lets us learn more about the virus’ origins before our hero partners do. This, along with some tasteful use of flashbacks, make for an intriguing tale that hits the mark again and again.
More detective story than horror
There are many aspects of horror within the Manhole manga story. However, it didn’t come across as a typical horror manga. What it felt more like for me was a really interesting detective story with elements of horror mixed in. When our heroes are confronted by victims of the plague, those victims are drawn in very detailed and horrific ways. But it was a far cry from the more graphic horror manga like work by Junji Ito or Panorama of Hell by Hideshi Hino.
Manhole is a thoroughly enjoyable horror manga from artist Tetsuya Tsutsui. It is a well-crafted detective story with well-thought-out character development. Although it keeps itself in the horror manga genre, it never just goes all-out in graphic violence just to serve that genre. It always remains grounded and takes you through one of my favourite stories of recent times.