Turn and Face the Strain
Purple Eyes in the Dark
By Chie Shinohara
Chie Shinohara’s Purple Eyes in the Dark (Yami no Pāpuru Ai) is a Japanese shōjo manga series. Purple Eyeswas serialized in Shōjo Comic from 1984 to 1986.
First-year high-schooler Rinko Ozaki is a seemingly normal teen, save for a curious birthmark whose significance escapes her. She has a crush on her long-time bad-boy chum Shinya Mizushima, but as yet is too shy to act on it. Her birthmark and that friendship will combine to produce some unfortunate results.
Shinya has enemies. Since Shinya has proved adept at dodging the beating he clearly deserves, why not target helpless Rinko?
The delinquents’ plan was to rape Rinko. Instead, the whole lot of them are brutally murdered, their discarded body parts scattered around their hideout warehouse. Rinko has no idea what happened to the teens, although she has an inkling that she was responsible.
Biology teacher Kaoruko Sonehara could cast more light on the subject. Her father, Professor Sonehara, ruined his career trying to prove there were humans who could turn into beasts. Now his daughter is determined to prove that her father was correct. Rinko’s birthmark shows that she is one such beast person. In the spirit of research, Sonehara prompted the delinquents’ attack on Rinko in order to tape-record Rinko’s transformation under stress. Alas, various unforeseen circumstances prevented the teacher from documenting the demise of the expendable teens.
No worries! Sonehara has many resources. The resolute scientist persists in harassing Rinko, subjecting the teen to kidnapping, imprisonment, and abuse — all in the name of science. Rinko proves adept at escape but alas, not at permanently eluding the fanatical researcher. The cost to Rinko and her family is immense.
The art in this isn’t great.
The complete story spans twelve volumes and includes a significant time-jump (and a shift in focus from Rinko to her daughter Mai), but the main plot threads through the whole series: regardless of setbacks, Sonehara will expose beast people as a reality and will go to horrific extremes to do so.
Sonehara never seems to have enough data to submit a preprint to arXiv1. This keeps the series going. That’s also the reason that Sonehara has plot immunity: claw her eye out and toss her off a cliff if you like, but she will always return. Other characters do not share this invulnerability, so don’t get too attached to the ancillary characters, even the adorable younger siblings.
One cannot help but notice that had Sonehara adopted a friendlier approach to her research — offered to help and guide the teen, say — rather resorting to capture, torture, and murder attempts, Sonehara could have accomplished her goals quickly, sans bloodshed. It’s possible that Sonehara’s father isn’t the only one with mental issues. The manga doesn’t take a kindly view of science, which appears to be staffed with a combination of the wilfully obtuse (those who mocked Professor Sonehara), and the insightfully deranged (the Soneharas), all of whom are cruel. The lesson here is that before you set forth on your audacious research program, step back and ask yourself “Is this pit filled with venomous snakes necessary to my research?”2
This is a horror story; horrible things happen in it. Were this series to feature content warnings, such warnings would have to be sprinkled like glitter over the whole series. I kept on reading in the hope that that horrors would cease, but it’s clear that the author knew what she wanted to create right from the start and stuck with her vision to the bitter, nasty end. I should also note that there’s a startling plot development that seems designed to double the length of the series. This did not double my pleasure.
Recommended only if you like this sort of thing.
Purple Eyes in the Darkis does not appear to be currently available in an authorized English edition.
1: Sonehara does manage to tape a Rinko-to-beast transformation early on. She hopes to blackmail Rinko into cooperating but does not use the tape to show the world beast people exist.
2: A snake-filled pit could be necessary if one were a herpetologist.