Manga / Homunculus

Homunculus is a seinen manga, by Hideo Yamamoto, who also authored the manga which would become a cheerful little film called Ichi the Killer.

So imagine that, like in The Matrix, you have a subconscious self image. It represents your deepest desires and fears. And no one can see it but you. You, and a homeless man named Susumu Nakoshi, who agreed to let medical student Manabu Itoh drill a hole in his skull for a total of 700,000 yen. Itoh is interested in studying human minds, ESP, ghosts and the occult. And he thinks that he can potentially unleash the hidden psychic potential of Nakoshi's brain.

Nothing seems to be happening, until a few nights after the operation, Nakoshi briefly closes his right eye, and starts seeing nightmare-shapes and monsters everywhere with his left.

And then things get weird.

Not to be confused with the little people who live in your brain, or with other uses of the word.

This manga provides examples of:

  • Accent Adaptation: The scanlators translated Nakoshi's backwater Tohoku accent as something akin to Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel's bumpkin accent.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Nakoshi.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Although there is not as much sexual imagery (ignoring all the outright sex) as usually is associated with Freud, all the focus on repression and subconsciousness and the unconscious is enough to make any psychology student cry.
  • Anti-Hero: Nakoshi can be seen as a deconstruction of the Samaritan Syndrome-inflicted hero - he goes around helping various people with their issues so he can better understand himself and face his own. Not to mention that his method of "helping" is not always well thought-out or clear. When you try to save a girl by raping her, you know you're not quiiiite balanced in the head.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: Itoh is constantly called "pretty" when he's dressed as a woman.
  • The Casanova: Nakoshi, before he decided to throw it all away because none of the women could make him feel anything.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Justified, in that Nakoshi only associates with people whose homunculus he can see, meaning he can only see the homunculi of people who have the same issues he does.
  • Easy Sex Change: Averted by Itoh, who takes a year to fully transition.
  • Fan Disservice: There's like two volumes straight of various characters masturbating and having sex. It's not played up to be hot.
  • For Science!: Itoh's justification for doing the experiments.
  • Gainax Ending: That's to be expected in such a Mind Screw series. But this is made even more unsettling by the fact that for a moment it seems like we're heading towards a Happy Ending with Nakoshi freeing himself from the Homunculi… the exact opposite happens: he throws Nanako aside (after trepanating her), stays prisoner of this world and totally loses it, even digging two additional holes in his skull. Itoh himself is utterly horrified by how his experience turned.
  • Gonk: Nakoshi and Nanako in their youth. And that's pretty much the cause of everything happening in the series if you think about it.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: Nakoshi and Itoh.
  • In-Series Nickname: "Car guy" for Nakoshi.
  • Loves Me Not: A variant - Itoh plucks petals off a flower, with the options "man" and "woman".
  • Luminescent Blush: Adorably, Itoh frequently does this later in the series, starting from when he's forced to crossdress.
  • Mind Rape: Nakoshi accuses Yukari of this.
  • Mad Scientist: Itoh. Though he turns out not being that mad and even regretting the whole thing at the end.
  • Mind Screw: For both the reader and Nakoshi.
  • Mirror Monologue: Nakoshi looks in the water and says that isn't his face - apt enough, considering he had plastic surgery.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Itoh again.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: An extremely weird example. The sex scene in the car between Nakoshi and the schoolgirl Yukari goes from semi-rape to consensual to violent rape and back to consensual again. It's intended to be unsettling. Also subverted in the semi-rape in so far as that Yukari says she felt nothing.
  • Of Course I'm Not A Virgin: Itoh.
  • Our Homunculi Are Different: Averted, they really are different.
  • Sparkling Stream of Tears: Itoh, at the very end.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: When Nakoshi realizes that the homunculi he sees are manifestations of his own inner distortions, which he projects on other people around him.
  • Transsexual: Eventually, Itoh.
  • The Unreveal: Nakoshi finally finds a photo of his pre-surgery face after quite some buildup and vague glimpses. It's variously covered up by the panel angles, a leaf, and even a dialogue bubble. The same treatment is given when Itoh later gets a look. It is eventually revealed in the final volume.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Itoh's entire motivation stems from a need to be acknowledged by his father.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Nakoshi writes a kind word in the hotel room for Nanako saying he will be right back. He won't. In the epilogue he just says that Nanako was useless to him in the end and we never know what she became. And considering what he did to her, maybe it's better we don't…
    • Given that the last panels of Nanako showed blood seeping through her bandages, it's possible that she died or suffered brain trauma as a result of the trepanation, which would explain the appearance of the police and the series' abrupt dive into a Downer Ending.
  • Which Restroom Dilemma: Itoh is shown deliberating over this when he excuses himself while crossdressing.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Itoh.
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