MPD-Psycho No. 1
by Sho-U Tajima & Eiji Otsuka (Dark Horse, 2007)

Did you ever have a toy kit that didn't have everything in it that it was supposed to have? For instance, a G.I. Joe jet plane that only had stickers for one wing but not for the other? Or a missing Transformer decal that you could clearly see depicted in the image of the action figure on the box? (And ladies, I'm sure there was a similar situation with Barbie or My Little Pony, but this reviewer didn't have any sisters.) Well, that's the feeling you'll more than likely have after reading MPD-Psycho No.1.

The story starts off in a captivating manner, in medias res, no less. Yosuke Kobayashi, a police profiler with multiple personality disorder (who now goes by the name Kazuhiko Amamiya), has been sent to prison for "professional negligence resulting in death." Sounds interesting enough, right? Well, as the missing pieces of the story start filling in, things still don't quite add up.

The largest missing piece is the driving point of the story: the entire reason Amamiya is sent to prison. When the reader is shown the events that lead to the "death" of the Kobayashi personality, we see the central character exact vigilante-style justice on the serial killer who mutilated his girlfriend. So, unless Amamiya/Kobayashi got some kind of reduced sentence/plea bargain off-panel, the initial plot device establishes a false pretense.

And it gets worse from there. The dialogue is so simplistic, one would think this is geared towards a younger crowd; however, the parental advisory sticker and the first corpse reinforce that this is NOT a book for young'uns. AT ALL. (I'll get to that later.) Also, a particular plot element is established (a barcode tattoo on the corpses' left eyes) but the only semi-exploration of that concept is left as a forced cliffhanger moment. So, don't buy this volume expecting a complete story. It is clearly the first of a serialized story, with an abrupt chopping-off point -- pun intended, and here's why....

The depiction of the corpses is the most jarring aspect of the book. They're all female, they're all naked and they are all mutilated/desecrated. Eiji Otsuka has an essay in the back explaining the motivation for showing corpses, that the intended effect is to bring shock back to finding a dead body, as opposed to the mass deaths portrayed in action and sci-fi films. While Otsuka has a point, it's difficult to say if this is the best way to portray it. Manga and some aspects of Japanese media already have a stereotype of degrading women. With the vast majority of violence in this story being against women and displaying their corpses (and in one case, a carefully-preserved mutilated woman) in a sexually explicit manner, this book isn't exactly working against that stereotype.

So, consider yourself forewarned; MPD-Psycho No.1 is not for the faint of heart. The artwork is consistent, but relies too much on gore and sound effects to shoehorn dramatic tension where it would not be otherwise apparent. It has potential for an interesting story in the same vein as Silence of the Lambs or the CBS television series CSI, but the plot is too weak and the dialogue is even weaker. And worst of all, this book doesn't even try to present even an initial chapter, much less a complete story.

Unless one is willing to invest in this series for the long haul, MPD-Psycho No.1 is an easy choice to avoid.

review by
C. Nathan Coyle

22 March 2008

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