Yami no Matsuei (Descendants of Darkness)
Yami no Matsuei (or Descendants of Darkness)
Yami no Matsuei is a shojo manga by Matsushita Yoko (also referred to as Matsushita-sensei) and serialised in the bimonthly mangazine Hana to Yume. (Bimonthly as in twice a month and not every other month.)
The first story debuted in 1995, running in issues 7-12. This story introduced the main character Tzusuki Asato. The manga has run on and off through the last three years but has currently accumulated 11 tankobon (collections of the stories printed in the mangazine). The present story arc seems to be dealing with Hisoka’s family, Hisoka getting a (some?) Shikigami, and Tsuzuki’s relations with his 12 Shikigami.
In Fall 2001, a thirteen episode tv animation for the series was created.
After death, the souls of the deceased must be judged in order to be sent to their place for reward or punishment. The land of the dead is called Meifu and the bureau who handles this system is called Juoucho. The Juoucho has ten bureaus, one of which is the Emmachou, who are in charge of bringing the souls to trial for their deeds. This office is also in charge of investigating mysterious cases of certain souls who have not died. These are called Shinigami and always work in pairs.
This is the story of Tsuzuki Asato, a Shinigami, who has the power to summon Shikigami (mythical beasts). On one assignment, the mystery of the dead leads him to Muraki, a charismatic man with astonishing powers. His new partner, Hisoka, is bound by fear and distrust of Muraki because this is the same person that led to his untimely death. But as Muraki gets drawn to Tsuzuki, a bigger mystery is beginning to unravel that will change the world of the dead forever.
The anime starts off with beautiful and breathtaking opening credits so much so that it leaves me in awe with each new episode. ‘To Destination’ sings ‘Eden’, its opening song, which clearly defines the dark and seductive tone of the entire series. And along with exquisitely rendered animation where they show a lineup of bishounen one by one, how can anyone resist Yami no Matsuei?
The introduction regarding the world of the dead is a very interesting concept. This concept is based heavily on Japanese Buddhist themes, hence the many foreign terms that cannot be easily translated to English. It will be helpful if one would know about these terms since they are inevitably used all over the series. Don’t worry about not understanding the series since Yami no Matsuei takes a more modern approach to this concept by making the courts of the Dead into the very semblance of the Japanese political offices.
The episodes are all about the Emmachou’s investigation of certain mysterious cases of untimely deaths led by the laidback slacker Tsuzuki, who actually exhibits a lot of powerful potential. Tsuzuki himself is a funny bishounen who is a perfect central figure to break this dark and often bloody setting. His partner, Hisoka, is his serious counterpart who has the ability to look into a person’s inner mind. There are actually a lot of bishounen introduced in the series but do not play major parts save for the anti-hero Muraki, who is also bishounen. That however, seems to guarantee nothing else but yaoi themes. From Hisoka’s partnership with Tsuzuki to Muraki’s attraction to our main character, the cycle seems endless. The yaoi themes are not that explicit though and even Tsuzuki is shown to resists Muraki’s advances so those who are not into yaoi need not worry.
Because the Shinigami is asked to investigate mysterious death cases, the scenes are often bloody. But the appeal goes on since the realm of the dead always involves something magical and that the battle scenes have fantasy players like Shikigami. Watching Tsuzuki (oh so delicious in his trenchcoat) summon his Shikigami called Suzaku (the Phoenix) is definitely amazing, even majestic!
But for a series with too much eyecandy and altogether promising dark concept and intense storylines, yaoi themes and fight scenes, why does it stop at 13 episodes? The episodes actually focus more on the investigation of just three mysterious deaths and only vaguely introduces the grand scheme of our anti-hero, Muraki. You are aware that there is a grand design behind all these little monster-of-the-day situations that our heroes are involved in but in the end, you haven’t the faintest idea what Muraki is up to. For me, leaving a viewer with a hanging ending is too much of a crime like what Angel Sanctuary did — leaving viewers on our own to just follow-up the rest of the story in the manga. Why does it all end abruptly?
But maybe that’s what it’s all about. Because the very theme of Yami no Matsuei enthralls you into a world of bishounen so dark and seductive, it could be argued that the hanging ending attunes to the ‘mystery.’ Either that, or future plans for an OVA…