There’s something you should know before we go any further. Nightmare Inspector is probably not for everyone. If you like your manga to have a continuous plotline, this isn’t for you. If you enjoy happy, light, fluffy stories, you’re probably going to want to look away. However, if you have a soft spot for short, twisted, sometimes depressing stories, then you really need to check this out.
Nightmare Inspector features a baku, or dream eater, named Hiruko. He spends his nights at the Silver Star Tea House, waiting for those who seek his help. You see, if you’re having a particularly nasty nightmare, Hiruko will be glad to help you sort it out…for a price. Hiruko finds nightmares incredibly tasty, especially with the right seasoning. Blood, sweat, tears, despair…they all have a unique flavor.
I’ve read two volumes of Nightmare Inspector so far, and as I mentioned, there’s very little overarching plot. In the latest volume, though, there was one story that began to flesh out the back history of our characters, but there’s still so much more to discover. Being the curious type, I really am hoping to find answers to all of my questions, but to be honest, I can live without them. See, these stories…the nightmares…they’re just so satisfying. I suppose I’m beginning to understand what makes them so delicious to Hiruko.
Many of the nightmares end up focusing on love or longing of some kind. I was worried I might get tired of this, but each one has a dark new twist at the end. A memory that was best left forgotten, an endless existence with the one you love, finally getting the girl of your dreams, or moving on with your life after a love’s end…rarely do these situations turn out how you expect. It says a lot for creator Shin Mashiba that I came to care so much about the characters in each short story so much. Without that connection, the twist endings wouldn’t have much of an impact at all.
The artwork goes a long way towards selling the fantastical nature of the story. Hiruko himself seems just a bit off, just slightly out of place. A large factor in this is his outfit, featuring a bare shoulders jacket/cape mixture. It helps give the impression the he’s floating around, whether it be in the real world, or the dream world. The facial expressions of the various characters really drive home the emotions running through their minds. And speaking of minds, be sure to pay attention to the landscapes featured in the various nightmares. Even those grounded in reality have a touch of the fantastical, and they really help make the story feel complete.
So yes, be warned, Nightmare Inspector might not fit your usual tastes. But I encourage you to give it a try. With so many stories, there’s bound to be one that really speaks to you, and once you’ve made that connection, it’s easy to find yourself falling further and further into the nightmare. Who knows? You might end up needing to visit Hiruko the baku yourself.
Here’s hoping your nightmare is truly mouth-watering.
Score: 4 out of 5