It’s exorcisin’ time!
Metanorn has been lacking in the department of manga coverage lately, so I am here to remedy that.
When urban legends come true.
Kicking off my manga review crusade is Doll’s Folklore. This one is a relatively obscure work by a relatively obscure author, so it’s probably appropriate to discuss the plot in greater detail than I usually would for a review. The premise of Doll’s Folklore is this: a kid narrowly avoids becoming a victim of a mass kidnapping, and subsequently finds himself with the unwelcome ability to perceive supernatural entities known as dolls. Fast-forward several years and Yousuke, our unwitting protagonist, finds himself dropped into the secret world of those who exorcise dolls to protect society, awakening his own powers that allow him to join the fight. Now, this doesn’t sound very original. And in fact, the premise is highly reminiscent of the better-known Ga-Rei among other things. But such superficial comparisons aside, how exactly does Doll’s Folklore fare?
The grudge of 108 children.
Well, to be honest it’s not too shabby. Without giving away too many spoilers, the manga’s spin on the supernatural element is that dolls originate from a combination of strong emotions and urban legends. That is to say, dolls are given both form and function by the very humans that they prey on. This leads to some more interesting ghost-busting beyond the traditional “beat up evil spirit and/or chant mantras to exorcise it.” Yousuke and co. have to research the origins and understand the driving forces of the dolls in order to get rid of them, which naturally gives the spooks more character beyond just being generic spectral baddies. In fact, the point of understanding the dolls becomes very important to the overarching tale of Yousuke’s struggle with his traumatic past that quite literally haunts him to this day.
Having a bad day.
So now that we have established that Doll’s Folklore isn’t a boring rehash of existing ideas, the question becomes whether it is worth the read. The short answer is “sure.” The manga is only fourteen chapters long so it isn’t too difficult to work through. The long answer, however, is “only if you really need to kill some time.” Doll’s Folklore may have a sufficiently intriguing premise and story, but it is ultimately held back by a lackluster execution. The big problem here is that the manga is just too short for its own good. I’m not sure if the low chapter count is a result of the series being axed or if the mangaka had always planned for this kind of length from the very beginning. But whatever the case, the main plot of Yousuke facing and overcoming the demons of his past ended up feeling very rushed and left much to be desired.
Be warned: she isn’t always this cute.
Personally, I am inclined to believe that the series was indeed cut, leading to the hasty wrap-up. In between Yousuke’s introduction to the anti-doll organization and the final resolution of his struggle with his past, the manga takes a rather leisurely pace as the hero gets used to exorcising dolls and working with his new comrades. This suggests to me that the crucial conclusion of Yousuke coming to terms with his past could have also had a much more relaxed pace, allowing for more coherent story-telling to better draw in the readers. As it is, the manga ends on a rather abrupt note and can only be described as incomplete and dissatisfying. Alternatively, it’s also possible that the author himself simply got tired of the story and wanted to end things quickly. But either way, there’s nothing that can be done about the unfortunate end so this is what we get.
This ended up being a shorter post than I anticipated because there’s really not much more I can say without starting to give away spoilers. And I’m here to give a review on the work, not tell you every little detail about what happens. You can find out for yourself if you do decide to give the manga a go. Anyway, despite some of the problems with the story-telling near the end, I can’t deny that the author did have some very interesting ideas that could have had a lot of potential for more development if the manga had gone on for a longer run. So while I can’t wholeheartedly recommend Doll’s Folklore as a priority for your reading pleasure, it’s definitely not something that should be completely overlooked.
Remember to keep your promises~