A supernatural, episodic horror series where the plot and artwork can be hit and miss

Shibito no koe o kiku ga yoi (You Will Hear The Voice of the Dead)
Hiyodori Sachiko
Series, ongoing 2011-
Read online | Buy the manga*

“I have a stupid power. I can see dead people. There’s probably a reason ghosts appear, they might have something they want to say to someone. But I’d rather not have anything to do with them. Nothing good ever comes of it.”

Kishida, our ghost-seeing psychic doesn’t get too much more characterization beyond this, truth be told. Well, besides the odd revelation of some repressed childhood memory that is only relevant in that specific chapter, and of course the ongoing nosebleeds whenever a ghost is nearby. It’s a miracle he hasn’t been hospitalised for anemia…

What to expect
You Will Hear The Voice of the Dead may not have the most original plot (nor set-up), but it’s actually a pretty fun series to read. The series (currently standing at over 70 chapters, though only around 35 have been translated by fans as of September 2018) opens with two second-years missing from Kishida’s school. Not wanting to get involved, when Kishida spots the ghost of his childhood friend, Hayakawa, he feels like he must help her as she takes him to where her undiscovered remains lay.

Recurring characters include Kishida’s classmate, the overweight girl-obsessed Koizumi; selfish survivor and president of the history/occult club, Shikino; Mako, the easily possessed psychic idol; occult club members Hieda and Eguchii; and Kishida’s unnamed mother.

Episodic in format, much like The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service and Hell Girl, You Will Hear The Voice of the Dead follows Kishida between stand-alone short horror stories, with a faint overarching thread linking the multi-volume series. Created using a mixture of urban legends, ghost stories, murders, and loosely based on true event happenings, supernatural elements are also dotted in some chapters with the additions on vampires, aliens, and cursed objects.

Chapters are short (typically under 30 pages) and can be read as part of the longer collection, or as stand-alone horror stories. While there is something to be said of the short horror story (if you are ever looking for the master of leaving-you-wanting-more, pick anything from Junji Ito’s Museum Of Terror or other short story series) a number of Sachiko’s stories feel like they are over too quickly. Rather than feeling like we get a full resolution or an eerie cliffhanger, a lot can happen off panel which we are told about via voice-over. It feels a little cheap in places, but it makes sense as this is from a serialized manga series on a strict page limit.

The artwork
I don’t usually focus too much on the artwork when it comes to reviewing horror manga (as someone with the artistic abilities of a blind squid, I try not to comment either way on art-styles or illustrations), however Sachiko’s style seems to swing between two extremes.

In places where she focuses on bugs, sea creatures, and decay, her art-style becomes reminiscent of Hideshi Hino’s overall creepy-cute style, mixed with Junji Ito’s graphic Gyo illustrations. If you take a peek at the first chapter, The Legend of Bateran Island in volume one, you’ll see what I mean when I mention similarities with Ito’s legendary Gyo.

The further the series progresses, the artstyle seems to switch between this graphic gore, and a more shojo vibe with female characters (particularly Kishida’s mother) seeming more reminiscent of Osamu Tezuka’s Princess Knight.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Convenient things are convenient
A little convenience is understandable; complete deus ex machina? Not as forgivable. When five members of the history club are drugged, kidnapped and moved to a damp seaside cave, someone, somehow has matches with them. Oh — and their kidnappers didn’t think to remove the severed hand clutching a gun that is laying right beside where they have left the unconscious children’s bodies.

C’mon, cult-killers; this is like serial killing 101 level mistakes here. Not to mention — what kind of kids take matches on a daytrip? What kind of kids are trusted with matches generally outside of sanctioned, clearly monitored camping trips for that matter?

Speaking of odd behaviours for teens — just how many club trips does one club reasonably go on in under a year? The sheer number of trips the occult club go on in the space of one school year far outstripped the combined class trips I’ve ever been on. We know they’re easy set-ups, but c’mon, don’t overuse the trope. It just comes across as lazy.

Let’s not forget one of the author’s favourite tricks: Kishida passed out and things happened while he was unconscious, off panel, so here’s the resolution in written voice over… tada? It’s not so frequent that you would notice it if you were casually reading the series over a number of weeks, but this trope is used on average at least once per volume and gets old really fast.

Evils of humanity VS hand-waving supernatural and extraterrestrial explanations
The underlying themes can be a little hit and miss as the series progresses. While initially the supernatural elements were kept to a minimum, with many stories focusing more on the evil nature of humans and humanity, the further along you get with the series the more common the ‘ghosts/aliens made me do it’ trope comes into play.

This is a real shame, as within some chapters, the killers have real motivations stemming from their guilt, past experiences, selfish natures, or other quintessential humans flaws. When things begin to be blamed purely on outside forces, this feeling of dark accountability becomes lost.

Consistency is key
The actual ‘rules’ (so to speak) around Kishida’s powers seem to fluctuate in places. For the most part, he seems to get a nose bleed whenever a ghost is nearby. This tends to be stronger for multiple deaths, then non-existent for ghosts he comes into contact with frequently. For supernatural creatures, it seems to be a little more hit and miss; for the most part, he doesn’t seem to physically detect them, but in places he does.

Sachiko does remain consistent with Hayakawa’s inability to speak, leaving her communication entirely down to miming and hand signals. Hayakawa’s behaviour remains fairly consistent as well, though six volumes in, we still frustratingly don’t have all of the answers around their friendship and what happened between them.

Outstanding gems
Despite the generally enjoyable but mixed bag of shorts, there are a few really outstanding stories with some genuinely good reveals. If you haven’t got the time or patience to read the full series, I’d recommend The Cherubic Ghost, Snowy Day and The White Hand. Nights of the Slayer is also pretty good, as is Massacre Village, but overall I’d say Day of the Pic and The Cherubic Ghost were by far two of the strongest stand-alone narratives.

Much wow. So sexy
Harem setups in manga have their place. They can be great sources of comedy in romance and action series. Even in some horror manga, a harem or reverse harem can have its place. You Will Hear The Voice of the Dead shouldn’t be one of those places. For some inexplicable reason, all of the girls — old and creepily young — are attracted to Kishida.

Sure, he isn’t bad looking, but personality wise? He’s pretty much a blank slate. If anything, from a non-reader perspective, Kishida is a sickly boy, prone to fainting spells and frequent nosebleeds, with a penance for talking to himself and wandering off. Not to mention his general apathy with life, and the number of times he manages to either stumble across a dead body, or is one of the first to a crime scene. How is this not sending off warning signs for these women?

As of September 2018, around about 38 of the 70+ chapters of this manga have been translated unofficially by fans. The series makes a fun read — just don’t expect anything ground-breaking, and you should find it fairly enjoyable.

* At the time this review went live, You Will Hear The Voice of the Dead  was not available to purchase in English. Please support the author and artist by buying an official translated copy when/if it becomes available.
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