Hiromu Arakawa’s Yomi no Tsugai (Tsugai of the Underworld ) began serialization in late 2021.
Unlike certain other Arakawa protagonists, Yuru lives in a peaceful rural village. Deep in the mountains, the community is little troubled by mundane affairs. While some leave to work in the lowlands, as the outside world is called, Yuru wants only to hone his hunting skills so that he will be too useful to the village to send away. In this way, he can remain close to his sister Asa, whose duties keep her confined to the village prison.
“Ah!” you say. “No doubt this will be a gentle, life affirming slice of life story like Arakawa’s Silver Spoon!”
Not as such, no.
Unbeknownst to Yuru, the village is shielded by magic wards. The day they fail, visitors appear in the village. In addition to the heavily armed masked special forces soldiers (none of whom are named because frankly, none of them will be around long for there to be a point to naming them), a petite girl named Gab, and a tall, one-eyed woman. The visitors immediately begin slaughtering the village adults, while hunting for Yuru.
The soldiers have modern weapons. The women are armed with means not immediately comprehensible to the mundane eye: Gab for example, need only say “gobble gobble” for chunks of her victims to be effortlessly sliced apart. The one-eyed woman can shatter walls with a gesture.
Yuru’s hunting skills allow him to slaughter the soldiers trying to capture him. Racing to rescue Asa, he arrives too late: the woman he knows as Asa has been slain by the one-eyed woman. The killer consoles Yuru: the dead woman was merely an impostor playing a role to keep Yuru from leaving the village. The real Asa is still alive. The real Asa is the one-eyed woman…
The real Asa has a special gift. So too does Yuru, although he is unaware of it.
The graphic violence in this is quite violent. I should have expected that the author of Fullmetal Alchemist would create a manga in which characters are gruesomely dismembered. At least Gab spares the children. You may wonder “Do manga children ever get post-traumatic stress disorder?” Indeed, they do! It is pretty clear at least one little girl is going to have nightmares for the rest of her life1.
The ongoing characters, protagonists and antagonists both, are inured to violence. In the case of Gab and Asa, they appear to be comparatively immune to it as well. Asa can deflect missiles with a gesture, while Gab shrugs off a grenade to the face.
Fullmetal provided readers with a slow burn before revealing to the readers the full scope of what was at stake. Yomi is faster paced: by the end of the second issue, most of the village is dead and we have some idea as to who the major players might be. Various facts about the formerly hidden occult world have been revealed to Yuru and the readers. Of course, there are a lot of questions as yet unanswered, such as why the village was warded and why Gab, Asa, and the soldiers were unrelentingly homicidal towards the villagers.
If I had not read Fullmetal first, the violence in the first few issues of the serial might deter me from reading further. However, I trust the author; I have faith (I hope not unfounded) that this is all going somewhere worth the journey. Alas, gratification must be deferred: this is an ongoing manga of which only two issues have appeared.
I am unaware of any English translation available for sale in North America.
1: Unless the children of the village starve to death because most of the adults were murdered.