Halloween is almost here, and that means one thing: candy. Lots and lots of candy (or pounds of Kit-Kats, if you’re me). And in a very smooth segueway, that’s sort of what this month’s manga post is about! Our protagonist is a kid who loves candy and Halloween. Oh, and also, he’s a detective who hears the voices of the dead and helps them get revenge against their killers. Sound intriguing? Then let’s dive right into Chitose Ame’s Halloween Detective Oz Williams!
Halloween Detective was created in 2012 and is still ongoing. Genre-wise, it’s classified as mystery, supernatural, and horror. Here’s a handy summary of the series:
In 19th century London, a young detective called Oz Williams hears the voices of the souls attached to this world, which are known as “Jack O’Lanterns,” and helps them carry out their revenge. Oz solves the murders, which are happening one after another, and gets revenge against the killers…but what awaits beyond the punishment of those crimes?
This series is basically the counterpart and antithesis to a little manga called Kuroshitsuji. Both series feature a young character whose parents were murdered, and so they choose to take revenge with the help of supernatural beings. And of course, both their souls will be in jeopardy once their tasks are completed. It’s actually really astonishing how similar the series are the more you read on and how far Chitose Ame goes to draw those parallels and then subvert them.
Oz Williams is a nine-year-old detective who displays no squeamishness when he comes across gruesome crime scenes, and he has no qualms about mentally torturing murderers. He found his parents’ killer when he was just seven years old, and he finds every perpetrator he looks for – with a catch. They all die after Oz has caught them; that’s a bit eerie and coincidental, isn’t it, hmmm?
But at the same time, he is also INCREDIBLY childlike, in contrast to Kuroshitsuji’s Ciel . Oz will compliment strangers and carries around a candy-cane colored walking stick. He also has a tendency to ask people for sweets (see? I totally connected this back to my introduction). People know him as the “Halloween Detective” because he wears a costume 24/7. He’s a precious little ball of preciousness. And this is completely bolstered by the artwork. Unlike the angled artwork you all know I love so much, the art in Halloween Detective is a bit rounder. The artwork tends to get a little…distorted…when Oz is unleashing his Jack O’Lanterns – the souls of people who have been murdered – on murderers.
Now, the first six chapters or so focus on Oz’s actions as a detective and slow introducing us to his world. The mystery – or the main thrust of the story – is what exactly the deal is with Oz and the nature of Jack O’Lanters. Most of this comes in the form of Theodore Austin, who is Oz’s assistant and purported older brother. He knows something about Oz’s past and has…unusual powers I shan’t get into here, for they’re spoilers. But since he comes across as the unassuming glasses type in the first chapter, you just know there’s something up with him.
Theodore’s story takes off with the introduction of Christopher Delt and Vincent, two gun-wielding priests who disapprove of Oz and Theodore. They’re extremely concerned with the Jack O’Lanterns that Oz uses because if the soul gets revenge, it cannot go to heaven and instead goes to purgatory. This leads us neatly into the main themes of Halloween Detective: religion and the afterlife.
Several murders Oz investigates take place in churches; in fact, the very first murder we see is of a young girl in a church. With all the death Oz has seen – including the murder of his parents – he has no quandary stating that “God doesn’t exist.” In his mind, if god did exist, then god wouldn’t allow innocent people to be murdered. And, as Detective Volker Rattwald (a detective whom Oz refers to as “uncle,” even though they’re not related) constantly reminds us, Oz is still just a kid trying to understand why his parents were taken from him. So when Christopher and Vincent show up and try to convince Oz to not help the Jack O’Lanterns and therefore damn those souls to purgatory, Oz scoffs because he feels their beliefs are misguided. And just like Ciel, there’s the question of what exactly will happen to Oz’s soul when he exacts his final revenge. Oz is not concerned about the state of his soul because it does not aid him in achieving his goals; when the more religious characters bring it up, he sees their talk as an obstacle. Interestingly, Oz draws a parallel between religion and the stage; he sees everyone as players waiting for their ultimate demise. But what’s really interesting is that Oz doesn’t see god as the puppetmaster, but himself. No one makes a move without Oz’s consent, which is ironic considering how little control Oz actually has.
So! Should you read this series?
Sure. I realize that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, so allow me to explain. If you like blood and aren’t squeamish, this series will hold your interest; the very first image of the manga is Oz talking to a bloody, dead child asking him for help. If you like the supernatural, then the idea of Jack O’Lanterns representing lost souls is very intriguing. Honestly, my main problem with the manga is that a lot of things revolve around Halloween, like Oz’s costume and the Jack O’Lanterns. Both of their existences are explained, but it still feels awkward to me. Looking at the cover of the manga, you would have no idea of its true nature. Which could be a good thing! We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, right? But putting this happy kid in the middle of a weird, otherworldly frame feels strange; the two ideas are almost too much at odds with one another, and at times it feels like you’re reading two separate series. While I am all for plucking a kid out of a happy world and placing them in darkness, à la Ciel in Kuroshitsuji, this manga handles it a little awkwardly. Additionally, the first few chapters get off to a rather slow start and don’t advance the plot. So in short, the tone is a bit all over the place, and the slow pace makes this very obvious.
But my final verdict is that you should totally read this for Halloween this year. It’s creepy, the weird tone can help to enhance the creepiness, and it has the word Halloween in it title! It’s not my favorite manga, but it’s very suitable reading for the witching hour next week.