The Summer Hikaru Died is an ongoing (currently at 4-volumes) slice of life/horror Seinen manga, written and illustrated by Mokumokuren. First conceived while Mokumokuren was studying for his exams, the creator later began releasing concept art through his Twitter. Upon seeing this, he was contacted by the editorial department of Young Ace UP, an online seinen manga magazine, leading to the serialisation of the story. The manga’s first volume was met with critical acclaim, selling over 200,000 copies over 3 months in Japan.

It has Hiraku’s face. It has Hiraku’s voice. It even has Hiraku’s memories. But whatever came down from the mountains six months ago isn’t Yoshiki’s best friend. Whatever it is, it’s dangerous. Carrying on at school and hanging out as if nothing has changed—as if Hiraku isn’t gone—would be crazy… but when it looks so very like Hiraku… and acts so very like Hiraku… – Blurb


The Summer Hiraku Died manga

NOTE: This review covers Volume 1

Following two close friends (Hiraku and Yoshiki) who live in a tiny village in the mountain, the manga wastes no time in revealing that Hiraku is not who they claim to be, divulging the twist within the first few pages. Whilst playing on this bombshell somewhat before the reveal may have garnered more suspense, Mokumokuren instead lets the elements of horror take a back seat. This allows the emotive drive of the characters to perform the heavy lifting, employing what is referred to as the “suspension bridge effect,” where the misattribution of one type of emotion for another is commonplace.

The artwork featured in The Summer Hiraku Died fits this narrative incredibly well, expressing both the uncanny valley style of horror and the impassioned complexities of emotion experienced through both loss and young love. The details of each panel perfectly display the impassioned intricacy of their continuing relationship, adding impeccable depth to the story and character development. Despite this, the depiction of the creature that has taken Hiraku’s place can be downright disturbing at times—enforcing the manga’s juxtaposition of seemingly normal scenes with subtle, unsettling details serves to heighten the tension and keep readers on edge.


The Summer Hiraku Died manga

Although The Summer Hiraku Died contains strong homoerotic overtones, it would be difficult to catagorise the manga in the BL genre. Whilst this aspect is explored through Yoshiki’s feelings for Hiraku extending further than a plutonic friendship, this acts more as a vessel for the abject supernatural horror of a loved one being replaced with an impostor. In spite of this, this subtext is still an important part of the story that could play a deeper role in the following volumes.

Both eerie and charming, The Summer Hiraku Died’s first volume is a gripping introduction to a uniquely crafted style of horror instilled deep within humanity. With its deftly crafted atmosphere, skillful artwork, and robust characters, this volume succeeds in setting the stage for an intriguing and unsettling tale to continue to unfold in the next release.

The Summer Hiraku Died is available to purchase through Yen Press’ website here.

More Manga Reviews