Onibi: Diary of a Yokai Ghost Hunter follows two young people who travel through Japan searching for Yokai—ghosts or supernatural creatures. A graphic novel that defies easy categorization, the story draws heavily from the real-life travels and experiences of Cécile Brun and Olivier Pichard, the creative team known as Atelier Sento.
The two main characters are foreigners named Cécile and Olivier, and the authors dedicate the book to the people they met during a trip to Japan in 2014, some of whom appear in the book. Onibi often reads like an entertaining travelogue. The plot, revolving around a toy plastic camera that’s said to be able to photograph Yokai, sets the pair of travelers on a course exploring a variety of areas of Japan. There are hints of mystery throughout, and each chapter ends with a “Yokai photo” that’s been altered by photographic and artistic effects to show Yokai.
The stakes for this journey don’t seem very high. Even when the Yokai hunters are making their way through a supposedly haunted forest, the sense of danger is remote. Those looking for more adventure in their ghost-hunting might be a bit disappointed in this respect, but there are plenty of fascinating locales here—particularly Osorezan, or “Fright Mountain,” a truly spooky place where many Japanese go to communicate with the spirits of their dead children.
The book’s art captures the look, feel, and flavors of Japan quite well, with the Yokai photos adding some spice to the mix. As an offbeat guide to some of the lesser-known parts of Japan and their sometimes strange but typically generous human inhabitants, Onibi is charming and effective.
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