Phantom Tales of The Night Volume 12: What Makes A Person?



It’s a bit of a silly question to pose when this series deals with the intersection of humanity and the supernatural, but it’s ultimately what the series aims to force its readers to question. Through twelve volumes, Phantom Tales of The Night pushes readers towards reflecting upon what makes someone human. Is it the secrets they attempt to hide? Could it be the memories and history that they can’t seem to let go of? Their ever changing nature? There’s plenty of aspects in the series that force readers into lingering on those thoughts. As much as any series is about the journey, or some end goal, all invariably embody something. Something that the creator wanted to share, something that they wanted to explore or express, something that they wanted to challenge readers with.

Oftentimes, that “something” is rather explicit. With this final volume of Phantom Tales of The Night, it both is and isn’t. This volume makes Matsuri’s (the author) “something” much more visible, but it only becomes so thanks to the culmination of all the various events laid before readers. It is this final act that is able to draw everything together into a single idea, “What makes a person?”. It’s a tricky question to answer, but in their own way, Matsuri has chosen their answer, much like the characters of this series chose their fates in this final volume.

If you’re forced into providing a written translation of Matsuri’s definition of a person in Phantom Tales of The Night, it would look something like the following.

Being a person is to be afraid. Afraid of what others will think of you, of how they’ll treat and interact with you because of who (or what) you are. Because of that, the secret appeared as a coping mechanism. A way for a person to hide away their darkest selves that they believe society will deny and ridicule. A way for them to preserve their lives the way things are, they way they’ve always existed in their minds.

But at the same time, a secret can only be a secret if someone else in the world knows what it is. You yourself cannot create a secret, and are forced to do so by sharing with another- a deeply personal bond. A bond, that must be handled with care, as you cradle the life of another in your hands. It is here that Matsuri defines a person; the bond that appears between two existences when something never uttered elsewhere can exist. Therefore, a secret is what Matsuri argues is able to define a person, and I find that a really powerful interpretation.

I think one of the best examples of how Matsuri wields that definition of humanity is in the first volume with a story that features Butterfly in the owner’s place. It’s a story about twin sisters where one resents the other so much that she wishes they could trade places. Here, rather than carefully cradling the woman’s secret, Butterfly uses it against her. The woman becomes her sister, but still remembers her past as her original self. In a sense, it’s very intense psychological horror, but more than that, it’s an erasure of the self. Here, the woman shares her secret- one that defines her current self. In the hands of Butterfly however, the secret is effectively crushed, lost to time as the woman is forced into leading a life that atomizes her humanity, creating a shell of a person.

It’s very powerful commentary, and it sees countless examples throughout the series as we slowly shift towards sharing secrets that define a person, rather than destroy. It’s a very interesting transition to make, all the while being able to maintain the psychologically disturbing aspects intact. Truly impressive, personally speaking. The series forms a flawless gradient from disturbing, to defining, and ultimately ends at desire.

I entirely understand that I’ve largely avoided talking about the contents of this final volume of Phantom Tales of The Night, and in a way it’s intentional. This final volume really doesn’t provide any startling revelations or anything of the sort. It is entirely dedicated to bringing character arcs to a close, and placing Matsuri’s complete definition of humanity in front of the reader. Rather than something that is relayed, I strongly believe it should simply be experienced.

To bring this rambling to a close, Phantom Tales of The Night is a series I’m sure more than a few people out there will enjoy. At a reasonable length, and without ever losing sight of its purpose, it is a series that forces readers to question it. Full of horror and beauty mixed together, it’s certainly an unforgettable read, and has me eagerly awaiting Matsuri’s next work- whenever that may appear. Also, the covers for the series are incredibly pretty.

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