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Manga Review: This Monster Wants to Eat Me Vol. 1 (2024) by Sai Naekawa

Cover art for the manga This Monster Wants To Eat Me
The perfect companion piece to the acclaimed BL horror title "The Summer Hikaru Died."

” official synopsis from Yen Press: “Hinako, a high school student with a dark past, lives alone in a town by the sea. Haunted by a constant sensation of drowning, she can barely go through the motions of her tedious life…until the day a monster tries to eat her! After passing out in the struggle, she awakens to find she's been rescued by a beautiful mermaid. However, salvation comes at a cost—the mermaid's protection will last only until Hinako has matured into the perfect meal! Hinako's first instinct isn't to run or scream, though, and an unlikely relationship between monster and prey unfolds… “I've come to devour you.”

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Since “This Monster Wants to Eat Me” was released within close enough proximity to the critically acclaimed “The Summer Hikaru Died,” it will be difficult for readers not to draw a direct comparison between the two. Notably, the idea of living with a monster is a dark twist on the romance genre, trading BL for GL, and closely mimics each other in flow and style. Will it appeal to the same audience that found the sensational premise of its more acclaimed counterpart so alluring? While the answer is a resounding yes, some elements may hold it back from reaching the same heights.

A dark and disturbing coming-of-age story that balances desperation for acceptance with a looming threat from a monster turned ‘friend' is an instantly gripping concept. However, goes beyond shock value in crafting an engaging teenage drama steeped in a sincerely conveyed (and potentially relatable) malaise and confusion. Hinako, regardless of struggling with the recent death of her family, will resonate with those who have dealt with it or knew someone who struggled with suicidal ideation. Supernatural elements aside, “This Monster Wants to Eat Me” is a well-crafted albeit somber story of a girl trying to find her footing after a great tragedy.

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This does not mean that the horror elements are lacking, with Sai Naekawa knowing how to let the disturbing seep into the panels for quick moments of shock. This also melds with moments of ‘friendship' with the mermaid trying to preserve her meal, offering an unnerving clash between caring and a primordial need to consume. Much like “The Summer Hikaru Died,” it is enough to appeal beyond the yuri audience and appease a more hard-core horror fandom. However, one of the defining differences is that “This Monster Wants to Eat Me” is lighter in body horror and less abstract, making it more straightforward and simplistic in delivery.

Elements of romance prove more difficult to gauge at this junction. For those interested in that element, there are inclinations that Sai Naekawa has the ability to deliver with how well she handles raw emotions of terror, loss, and desire for friendship. Still, those coming to the series explicitly for the yuri romance may want to wait for another volume to see how it develops.

In all fairness, “This Monster Wants to Eat Me” was released a year before “The Summer Hikaru Died” in its native Japan, so to call it inferior intimidation is not a fair assessment. However, from availability here in the West, it is hard not to draw such conclusions. Sai Naekawa's narrative and visual approach is solid, yet it falls slightly short of the same profound impact and visual flair of Mokumokuren's work. Looking back years from now, the fandom around one title will be more prominent with how flawless and stunning “The Summer Hikaru Died” is. Of course, the two make amazing companion pieces if you are a glutton for punishment like myself.

This critique also extends to the artistic style, with the visuals consistently stunning and disturbing. Yet here, the rather straightforward approach makes it serviceable when measuring it against the otherworldly horror of its BL counterpart. Still, Sai Naekawa skillfully captures the high emotions of her characters and the deviations into terror. The backgrounds and creative use of shadows to convey impending danger add a visual flair that will make horror fans swoon.

“This Monster Wants to Eat Me” is a prime example of how timing can completely change the perspective of a creative work. If the manga were released before “The Summer Hikaru Died,” the comparison would either not come up or favor Sai Naekawa in predating one of the most beloved horror titles of 2023/24, with their similar themes and approach. Still, even a slightly less profound and visually striking version will be a welcome treat for many still salivating for more terror twisted with romance.

About the author

Adam Symchuk

Adam Symchuk is a Canadian born freelance writer and editor who has been writing for Asian Movie Pulse since 2018. He is currently focused on covering manga, manhwa and light novels having reviewed hundreds of titles in the past two years.

His love of film came from horror and exploitation films from Japan that he devoured in his teens. His love of comics came from falling in love with the works of Shuzo Oshimi, Junji Ito, Hideshi Hino, and Inio Asano but has expanded to a general love of the medium and all its genres.

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