Utsubora is a mature, suspenseful mystery manga that was published in Manga Erotics F by Nakamura Asumiko. The story focuses on a famous, but struggling novelist who is ensnared by a mysterious young woman and the novel she presents to him. This entry will focus on the beginnings of the story–which means many enigmas will be left just as that. Don’t want to spoil the fun too much.
Utsubora starts at someone’s end: a beautiful young woman dives headfirst off a building. Battered beyond recognition and carrying no identification, the police find only two contacts in her discarded cell phone. Who are they? What relationship did they have with the woman? Do they know of or have anything to do with her apparent suicide? These questions won’t be answered simply or readily–that’s just part of the mystery.
Mizorogi Shun is one of those contacts and was called to the hospital to identify the body. He’s a famous novelist and met the young woman, Fujino Aki, at a publisher party. When questioned by two police officers, he claimed he only met Aki a few times. The police then bring in the second contact: a young woman who claims to be Aki’s twin sister. While she looks shockingly similar to Aki, Sakura claims no knowledge of Aki’s circumstances as they were raised separately by divorced parents. The connection between the three, particularly Mizorogi and Sakura, doesn’t end here. Their paths will intersect much more.. along with two cops investigating the case.
Mizorogi approaches Sakura for one reason–a reason that’s quickly flushed out by Sakura. His novel, Utsubora, was not actually written by Mizorogi, but taken from an amateur manuscript he received that was signed “Fujino Aki.” The serialized story is not complete, so he needs the continuation or at least an outline or any notes Aki left behind–something only Sakura has access to. She gives him what he wants and gets what she wants: she seduces him. Mizorogi has no recourse. His career and reputation, which are his life, are at her mercy.
Later, one of the police officers contacts Mizorogi and tells him that all the information Sakura gave them was false. Her address, her phone number… no person exists with the name Miki Sakura. This casts doubt not only on Sakura, but also Aki: was it really her that died? Did she ever even exist? The body’s head was smashed, carrying no identification is abnormal.. the mysteries around the two women grow thicker. Mizorogi himself struggles to differentiate between the two as time goes on. Are they really two different people? Despite his growing confusion and fear, Mizorogi needs Sakura for Utsubora’s continuation. Why is she doing this and what does she really want from him?
The art is gorgeous, as expected from Nakamura Asumiko. Beautiful layouts and flow of panels…this story is the best suited for her style that I’ve seen yet. Both Aki and Sakura are beautiful but tinged with danger, mystery, and an unworldly quality. There’s weariness, emptiness, and the occasional flicker of desperation in Mizorogi. This is heightened when people close to Mizorogi begin to suspect that he isn’t writing Utsubora. So who really is the ghost writer? If all parties are satisfied with the arrangement, does it really matter?
There’s plenty of mystery, motives, and explanations left to uncover in the later chapters of Utsubora. A few glimpses of what’s to come:
I loved him.
I loved his works.
I wanted to become him.
I wanted to be loved by him.
But he loved no one.
Writers only love their own work.