The Summer Hikaru Died, Vol. 1 is the first tankōbon of Mokumokuren’s Hikaru ga Shinda Natsuhorror manga. Translation is by Ajani Oloye.
Gloomy Yoshiki yearns for the day when he can leave his backwater hometown behind. Until that day comes, Yoshiki’s primary connection is his close friend, the endlessly cheerful Hikaru.
It’s just too bad for Yoshiki that Hikaru died during a hike up a nearby mountain and that the supposed Hikaru currently attending school with Yoshiki is an eldritch abomination wearing Hikaru’s reanimated corpse.
When the unspeakable entity appropriated Hikaru’s corpse, it gained possession of all of the dead boy’s memories. Passing itself off as Hikaru should have been easy enough. Yoshiki is more observant than the entity expected. Yoshiki can tell that whatever came down from the mountain was no longer his friend.
Confronted with its impersonation, the being readily admits to the ruse. It is relieved that Yoshiki has no intention of exposing it. Like the person it pretends to be, it likes Yoshiki and would greatly regret having to kill him. As matters stand, the being can carry on cosplaying Yoshiki’s best friend.
Yoshiki is deeply conflicted. On the one hand, he is grief-stricken over his friend’s accidental death . Accepting the imitation is a coping mechanism. On the other hand, the glimpses he gets of the entity’s true form are deeply disquieting. Any reasonable person would wonder if the cheerful walking corpse were evil.
A local eccentric denounces Hikaru. She dies soon after, having choked on her own hand. How mysterious! Then a stranger warns Yoshiki about the hazards of befriending the entity; the experience will transform him. Yoshiki is deeply conflicted about what to do. It’s probably for the best that he does not know that his friend’s doppelganger cannot step past shrine gates without burning up.
As Yoshiki does his best to ignore the increasingly frequent weird events in and around the town, as well as the entity’s curiously nonchalant attitude towards death and violence, other, better informed, groups are beginning to take a very close interest in the town.
The art in this is quite remarkable (in a positive sense).
Yoshiki spends more time with his hand inside the entity’s chest (the entity is willing to provide openings on demand; I would say “try not to imagine it” but this process is lovingly depicted in disquieting detail) than one would normally expect. The relationship between the two boys has a homoerotic subtext that I suspect will shift to plain text in later volumes.
There are lots of hints that the entity is, if not actively malevolent, still dangerous to humans. At least some of the villagers were aware that it lived on the mountain and went to considerable effort to ensure it could not leave. Hikaru was supposed to perform a ritual to keep it penned in. While the adults don’t seem to know that the entity appropriated the boy’s form, they do know the ritual was not properly carried out .
Thus far the author is content to focus on atmospherics rather than overt gore: none of the subplots really go anywhere within this volume. There are lots of suggestions that the entity might be dangerous, even outright homicidal, but direct evidence for this is lacking. What we see it do is pretend to be Hikaru. It even protects students from the other entities that are migrating off the mountain since Hikaru failed to complete the ritual. Readers may wonder how long Mokumokuren can sustain the tension without being forced to deliver. Nevertheless, the manga is skillfully done.
1: Teenaged Hikaru got distracted by a tree that looked like a naked woman and fell to his death.
2: I am unsure why Hikaru was sent up the mountain on his own, if the ritual is so important.