Ghost Hunt 9 by Fuyumi Ono and Shiho Inada: B

From the back cover:
The ghost hunters’ new case has turned deadly. Naru, the leader of Shibuya Psychic Research, is under a dark spell. When Naru awakens, he foolishly decides to take on an evil spirit alone. Now he faces a life-or-death struggle!

Thankfully, this volume was an improvement over the last one, and has convinced me that I can buy the volumes I’m missing without feeling cheated somehow.

The volume opened with Naru still possessed and kept asleep by one of Lin’s spells, lest the spirit within gain access to Naru’s mysterious powers and kill everyone. With their leader sidelined, everyone else had to work together to figure out what was going on, which I liked, even though most of the explanation was boring stuff about traveling monks and burial mounds. Also of note: Ayako, the “self-proclaimed miko” who had consistently failed at every exorcism she had attempted, finally showed that she does have some power, but only in the presence of living trees.

Ayako’s efforts freed Naru from his possession and, of course, he promptly gave the same explanation that it took the others quite a bit of effort and research to discover. Although there was an easier way to stop the deaths, he decided to eliminate the cause of the curse, even though it was something that the others had no hope of vanquishing. This led to him finally revealing his own psychic powers and ending up hospitalized as a result. Puzzling decision aside, I still appreciate finally getting some meaningful progress on this subplot.

The quality of the art in this volume was all over the place, with some characters’ facial proportions changing every time they appeared. I’m not sure how it works when a series is published direct-to-tankoubon instead of first appearing in a magazine, but I have to wonder whether there is less editorial oversight. The volumes that match up to the period where Ghost Hunt was serialized in Nakayoshi are the best of the lot, with not only the most consistent art but also the best character moments.

I liked the conclusion of this volume and it gives me hope that future volumes will, even if beyond hope in the art department, return focus to the two leads and not backslide further.

Lastly, I’ve written a Definitive Guide to volumes 1-9 of Ghost Hunt for Manga Recon. You can find that here.

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