Call of The Night Volume 16: Love



A razor thin line has always separated love and hate, producing a coin where each possesses a face. Finding the right way to separate those two emotions when that line blurs is near impossible, and is something that appears in Call of The Night volume 16. In what is probably the weakest link of the volumes in the teens from Kotoyoma, volume 16 struggles with that delineation- both intentionally and unintentionally. Kotoyama themself makes mention of such difficulty in the afterword, speaking to how much longer this section has taken than was originally intended. And in all honesty, it’s easy to see why. It’s not as if the Call of The Night author has some magical insight into the human condition that allows them to create these stories- inside is a struggle to understand much like anyone else’s. One such struggle where Kotoyama doesn’t score a decisive victory, I should add.

The lack of a clean win in character development certainly does not mean that it’s bad, though. Even still, there’s a lot of great work that exposes the two sides of human emotion with various characters- and in unique ways for each. Let’s start with the easiest though in Mahiru. A young high school boy with deeply troubling familial circumstances, he struggles a great deal with the pair. The lack of love that he receives from his family being the catalyst that introduces him to Kiku, for one. The more important piece however is the animosity he holds towards Ko alongside that outwardly expressed love. Mahiru always wanted to be what Ko was, to be free of the painful chains in his life that bound him. That hatred was what led him into the lap of Kiku, what has drawn him more and more towards the boundary of those two emotions. Call of The Night volume 16 isn’t all about Mahiru’s collapse towards insanity, however. It’s more of something… hopeful. Whereas Kiku drowned Mahiru in love, Ko is more so attempting the opposite- absorbing his hatred. That’s what the sword fight was for, after all. It’s a very boyish attempt at fixing the situation, but ultimately it’s what Mahiru needs- the ability to be a kid again. A deranged mother is only replaced by a deranged lover that drags him further under. A tender hand cannot fix something that was caused by that same hand. Mahiru’s content in this volume is definitely the strongest of the 3, but it also is the most “planned out”.

In contrast, Kyoko’s mini character arc is far more muddy- but at the very least still visible in Call of The Night volume 16. Kyoko’s has always been about how to stave off loss and fill that emptiness, but it comes crashing down (if only for a moment) in this volume. Coming face-to-face with the person that singlehandedly ruined her life, she can’t quite keep it all bottled up. In the heat of the moment, the height of Kyoko’s frustration and emotional outburst is really incredible. You can feel her eyes whip around on the page, you can sense the frantic nature with which her words are expelled from her mouth, you can feel the heat build beneath her skin. I think it’s easy to depict rage as something that attacks indiscriminately and is depicted as some deep dark monster… but I also think that rage is far more of a spectrum than that. Here, Kotoyama nails it with the intense insecurity and confusion that Kyoko radiates, changing and ruining plans in the blink of an eye with questions that have no answer and run on sentences that might never stop. It’s just that there’s a few hairs out of place preceding and following this breakdown which I’ll touch on later.

Lastly, there’s Kiku Hoshimi- the most enigmatic and confusing of the trio. In Call of The Night volume 16 Ko mentions that he doesn’t think Kiku is lying- which is (technically) correct. Lying is essentially saying something that you don’t believe to be the truth, which is what Kiku is doing here. If love and hate were to be placed on a scale to be measured, they should be evenly matched. If you placed Kiku’s emotions on the scales though, that very scale would shatter into pieces trying to reconcile the two. Her emotions are so twisted around her desire for both death and love that she can never remove the two from each other. But it’s also more complex than that, as Kiku hides a deeper, darker past behind the seduction of Kyoko’s father (alongside another man). All placed beneath her attempt at lover’s suicide with Mahiru, a picture is painted of an ethereal beauty dancing beneath the moonlight that’s entirely unable to live in reality. Every step she takes leaves behind a footprint that makes it appear as if she has no idea where she’s going. Circling aimlessly for a way out of this life, Kiku struggles to extricate the two emotions that bind her to this world. Though without the intense emotional impact of Kyoko’s history, or the strong connections that Mahiru currently has, Kiku’s moments in this volume struggle to attach themselves to the reader.

That struggle largely comes from the in-between of these moments, their ability to reconcile with the ground that they find themselves upon. Insanity is all fine and dandy, but without a measuring stick to really compare to it can lose a lot of its value. That’s why Mahiru’s story feels the strongest, why Kyoko’s struggles without the followup, and why Kiku’s feels far too untethered from an emotional perspective. As much as that is a complaint, it’s also one that I don’t really have an answer to. Crazy people just seem crazy when you don’t really know them. It’s hard to really establish characters like Kiku without ruining reveals, and it’s hard to close out chapters on interactions like Kyoko’s when they’re not the sole focus. It’s a give and take that Kotoyama’s found themselves in with Call of The Night volume 16, and I can’t quite fault them for where they’ve landed.

With all of that in mind, let’s start wrapping this up. Interestingly enough, Call of The Night volume 16 continues to be quite unlike prior volumes, as its action feels surprisingly distanced from the main entree of volume 16. Panelling and layouts feel more subdued as Kotoyama really lets the characters speak their minds. Kotoyama’s favortism towards strong perspective pieces still remains, of course, but the more aggressive visual tone of previous volumes isn’t as strongly felt here. And I do quite like it. The visual flexibility of Call of The Night has always been a very valuable and appreciated piece of this work- something that sort of evolves alongside the story of this manga.

So with all things considered, Call of The Night volume 16 is a (somewhat awkward) evolution of Kotoyama’s work. Reeling in the degree of action present, and shifting the focus further away from Ko as the lead character, it’s beginning to bring this chapter of Mahiru and Kiku to a close- and bringing the final arc focusing on Nazuna into view. It’s hard to say that it feels planned, because it really doesn’t. Every change-up and new development Kotoyama has put on display with Call of The Night has felt freakishly natural, and these final moments are much of the same. Now with enough volumes to be able to legally drive if they were years, Call of The Night volume 16 is yet another representation of Kotoyama’s ability and love that has been poured into the series, and is certainly worthy of being part of it.

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