Ghost Fixers First Thoughts



Yasuki Tanaka got catapulted into mangaka stardom with Summertime Rendering and is back once more with a new Shounen Jump+ manga: Ghost Fixers. It’s tough to really summarize what this manga represents in terms of Tanaka’s career, but if I were forced into making a statement I would say that it trades blows with Summertime Rendering. It keeps in line with Tanaka’s interest in the supernatural, but it leans more towards the action and thriller aspect that Tanaka was so enamored with in Summertime Rendering. Alongside it however, we see the emergence of more humor and a better defined world. There’s really a great deal to discuss in terms of quality and whether or not it’s worth reading, so I’ll get right to it.

Ghost Fixers is, as the name suggests, about righting the wrongs enacted in the world via “ghosts”. Hifumi, our main character, explains that “ghosts” as he calls them are ‘beings that never should have existed in this world’. That means both animate and inanimate objects, and the chapter does a really good job of explaining that. Ghosts an otherworldly phenomena that are able to influence reality in Hifumi’s world. Whether that’s as a plastic sword that can cut anything, a briefcase that spits out a machine gun, or a little girl that warps reality to trap and digest people- they are all ghosts.

Truthfully, it’s an impressively novel and creative approach to a supernatural action series. It gives Tanaka a world of freedom in terms of obstacles and opponents, and along with the method of introduction for ghosts (via falling out of the sky in a single town one day), there’s plenty of potential for a proper story to exist. Though I think my personal favorite trait of ghosts in Ghost Fixers so far is some of the symbolism and styling included with them.

Take for example, Hifumi and his sub-weapon (as he calls it). It’s the plastic sword that can cut anything, or for those that know their Japanese mythology, it’s the grass-cutter sword. In the folklore surrounding the weapon, the grass-cutter has always been a symbol of virtue and valor. Conversely, our second main character, Moka, totes about a briefcase that contains a machine gun. Obviously the comparison to mafia or mobsters is there, but more than that I feel it’s an expression of Moka being an outsider in comparison to Hifume. It creates a very interesting dynamic that quickly finds itself to be coarse and full of energy.

In terms of more overarching notions of style, I think Ghost Fixers has carved out a very appealing niche with its world and characters. It has a lot of freedom and immediately expresses that through things like a grown man wearing a magical girl mask (whether it’s ghost related or not I have no idea). Even things as simple as the clothing give the world of Ghost Fixers a lot of stylistic freedom. Moka and Hifume wear very different clothing, and much like their personalities, sport clashing styles.

That free expression of style does also translate rather well to Tanaka’s panelling for Ghost Fixers. Personally speaking, I think Tanaka’s learned a lot from their experience with Summertime Rendering in that regard. Their action posing can still be a little stiff and typical, but their “typical” panelling has come a really long way. I’d say they still struggle with confined spaces and character conversations, but overall their expression of style and space has come a very long way. It’s a very notable improvement, which further highlights some of the struggles that have carried over from Summertime Rendering. Ghost Fixers looks pretty damn solid through quite a bit of the chapter, but every so often you’ll run into art that just looks…. wrong. It’s almost as if Tanaka distorted the character art itself rather than drawing the characters at an angle. It’s very odd, rather jarring, and quite confusing. Tanaka’s art isn’t what you might call “amazing”, but Summertime Rendering proved at the very least it was good (for the most part). Tanaka’s furthered that level of ability in Ghost Fixers, so these odd artifacts can really stick out like a sore thumb. Though as you can see, the vast majority of the art is rather good, and Tanaka’s panelling takes it that much further.

So where does this really take Ghost Fixers as a first chapter? In my personal opinion, it shows off a lot more potential than Summertime Rendering. Further, it sticks closer to Tanaka’s interests in terms of story and world, so I doubt we’ll see as jarring a bait and switch as we did with the themes and genre of their previous work. Tanaka’s working hard to improve their visual craft, and alongside it their written work has seen a noticeable jump. Hifume and Moka as characters are full of personality and individuality, and Tanaka is able to sneak quite a few little interesting pieces of character and story between the lines and pages of this first chapter.

There’s certainly parts where Summertime Rendering outdoes Ghost Fixers, like in environment art, but I think ultimately the sacrifices that Tanaka’s made moving from Summertime Rendering to Ghost Fixers have been worth it, and allow this series to find its own potential as an entirely separate work. Because of that, I’d say it’s a work worth looking forward to.

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