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Manga / Lovesickness

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Lovesickness (Lovesick Dead note ) is a short horror manga series from the Kyoufu Manga Collection by Junji Ito, known for such works as Tomie, Uzumaki, Gyo, and The Enigma of Amigara Fault. It was later reprinted in the Lovesickness hardcover collection, along with several other short stories.

Ryusuke, a boy returning to his foggy hometown of Nazumi, notices that its unique form of fortune-telling has become increasingly popular since he left. People will go to crossroads in the fog and cover their faces, and ask the first passing stranger to answer their questions to find advice and solace in their lives. But ever since he returned, girls who go to the crossroads have begun to break down and violently kill themselves after hearing an answer.

While he seeks to find the cause and solution to this disturbing problem, he is challenged, for not only are the dead not leaving the crossroads, but Ryusuke fears that he may be tied to the mysterious events in more ways than one...

Provides examples of:

  • Acquitted Too Late: Eventually, the townsfolk and Ryusuke's classmates realize that he is not Pretty Boy...after he seemingly sacrificed his life to stop Pretty Boy once and for all. They enter the Despair Event Horizon as ghosts overtake the town.
  • The Atoner: Ryusuke, for he believes he started this whole mess as a child by brushing off a woman who became the first crossroads suicide from his dismissal. He not only resolves to catch the one causing the problems, but seeks to restore hope and avert future suicides by giving good fortunes, which eventually becomes his defined role.
  • At the Crossroads: The fortune-telling is practiced at these, and often, life-changing questions are asked there...and unfortunately, answered for the worse.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The beautiful boy at the crossroads cultivates the obsessive love of the girls in the town, even after their deaths. Ryusuke, after becoming the boy in white, tells the undead horde of spirits to go right ahead and love him, and the chaotic swarm destroys them all, finally giving the town some peace.
  • Big Bad: The mysterious boy at the crossroads, whose pieces of advice have compulsive and devastating effects on the girls who hear them.
  • Bittersweet Ending: While at the end, the boy at the crossroads and ghosts seem to be gone, many lives have been ruined by intersection fortune-telling and the protagonist must bear the burden of restoring and aiding the town as it continues its practice. He inspires another couple the same age as him and Midori to fall in love and help carry out his duties, as well as a depressed businessman to find a new purpose in life.
  • Black-and-White Morality: The boy at the crossroads vs. the aptly-titled boy in white AKA Ryusuke.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Ryusuke and Midori knew each other as kids and become romantic upon reunion. The horror stepping in makes sure it doesn't let it last, though.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Discussed. There are several candidates for who the boy might be: Ryusuke himself (later proven false), Tejima who later reveals that Suzue's ghost drove him to a breakdown, and Midori's cousin, the undead baby. Ryusuke is plagued with guilt that he's responsible for Pretty Boy existing. It eventually comes out that while Ryusuke was involved, the actual Pretty Boy is possibly the son of the man that knocked up Midori's aunt, who vanished shortly after her aunt died by suicide. Ryusuke lets go of his guilt when he realizes that he didn't make the child into the Boy in Black.
  • Darkest Hour: In the last chapter, Ryusuke died attempting to end Pretty Boy's regime, who pettily orders the ghost girls to return home and die over and over again. Fog and despair overtake the town, with the parents walking around in a Thousand-Yard Stare. Then a random businessman meets a boy in white, who tells him kindly to go around and answer people's fortunes to get some peace. As the man does so, another couple joins him and they make their rounds, realizing that by being nice they are solving the problem. The Boy in White comes out to confront the ghost girls...and tells them they will be loved, to love the Pretty Boy. Cue the ghosts vanishing, and the town finally getting some peace.
  • Death of a Child: The second chapter has the knocked-up woman kidnap her paramour's five-year-old son and strangle him, leaving him in a garden. When Ryusuke encounters the father, he's distraught and wandering around in shock.
  • Determinator: Ryusuke, who has a personal stake in stopping the events and gets accused of being the devilish boy along the way, will nevertheless do anything to catch the real deal. Not even being mobbed by a giant army of suicide ghosts and being most definitely killed in the encounter stop him from continuing to oppose the boy at the crossroads, becoming a Messianic Archetype in the process.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Ryusuke as a kid unthinkingly told a pregnant woman that the man who knocked her up would never love her, while he was trying to run away from home. The Pretty Boy starts killing teenage girls and women that seek his fortune and it's blamed on Ryusuke. Midori theorizes before her death that the boy might be her unborn cousin, and the boy in black confirms it. Even so, as she and Tejima both realize before the curse compels them to hurt Ryusuke, Ryusuke was a kid and it was perfectly normal for him to not know how to answer a loaded question. Ryusuke himself as the boy in white saves another man from the same fate by telling him to listen to those seeking their fortune and answer kindly.
  • Driven to Suicide: Starting with one woman, many girls have been driven to suicide after hearing bad intersection fortunes, seemingly compelled by the mysterious beautiful boy to doom themselves after hearing his advice. The majority, who are told they will never have love, become obsessed with their crushes until a final rejection pushes them to kill themselves. Even the dead still have this urge when they are denied the answer they want, but it is likely they have already been so warped by the boy's initial words that the newcomers are not to blame for their reaction.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: The beautiful boy at the crossroads has pale skin that stands out against his black hair and clothing.
  • Exact Words: Midori is compelled by the beautiful boy's advice to hate Ryusuke for the rest of her life. After he begs for her to forgive him, she goes out and kills herself to spare herself and Ryusuke that torment, noting that by shortening her life, she has ended the problem while fulfilling the pronouncement.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Before Ryusuke goes to confront the undead girls, he encounters the married man that indirectly caused all his misery by knocking up Midori's aunt while still married. He also is still cheating on his wife, who has caught on and filed for divorce. The man quite honestly reveals that he also knocked up the same woman that harassed Ryusuke and Midori, but he says that his son was innocent and shouldn't have been caught in the crossfire. Ryusuke quietly agrees that the five-year-old child shouldn't have been murdered for his father's crimes.
  • Fan Mob: A very twisted case with the boy at the crossroads and the girls he has told will not find love. Their affections turn to him and they mob him just like a normal group of teen girls and an attractive male idol, which is even what the scene is mistaken for by a curmudgeon complaining about the noise.
  • Frame-Up: Ryusuke's friend Tejima frames Ryusuke as the Intersection's Pretty Boy, even going so far as to pierce his ears in his sleep because the lack of ear holes would have proven them different. However, he wasn't trying to implicate him to others, but to get him to doubt his sanity so he would kill himself and join Suzue in death at her urging.
  • Good Counterpart: The boy at the crossroads gets one in the form of Ryusuke, who becomes the boy in white, encouraging the suicidal to find purpose by helping others instead of driving the happy to suicide.
  • Lean and Mean: The beautiful boy at the crossroads is unnaturally tall and the instigator for the current tragedies befalling the town.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: While there are definitely supernatural elements in the story, the reason fortunes drive people to madness isn't completely clear. On the one hand, it could be that the boy at the crossroads has some dark powers that make people take their fortunes to the worst possible end, but it's also possible it's more psychological and people are taking fortunes the wrong way due to suggestion and their own will rather than magic and that they are following them to the end due to the finality of the fortunes in the town's custom.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: The boy at the crossroads is suggested to be either the unborn child that died with Midori's aunt (who was the first fortune-telling suicide), or the runaway elder son of the man who had affairs with both Midori's aunt and the "troubled woman" in the second chapter. Ryusuke believes that the boy is the latter, and it allows him to let go of his guilt.
  • Ominous Fog: The town is filled with it at night when the beautiful boy is out, though it disappears once the supernatural evils are gone. When a mass suicide occurs, the fog turns red from the blood, and when Ryusuke becomes the boy in white, the fog becomes softer and more ethereal.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: The spirits of the girls who died look more solid and take the form of their rotting corpses, though it's never clear how physical they are.
  • Police Are Useless: When Ryusuke visits the police about the situation, he is instead turned against because of the efforts to frame him as the boy at the crossroads. They are later helpless to stop the ghost swarm and realize belatedly that Ryusuke was innocent.
  • Pretty Boy: Both the beautiful boy at the crossroads and Ryuusuke, as the boy in white are depicted with femininely attractive faces and gain the term "Bishōnen" as an epithet in the original Japanese text.
  • Prophet Eyes: The boy at the crossroads and later, the boy in white.
  • Seers: In the foggy town of Nazumi, there's a local tradition called intersection or crossroads fortunetelling, where someone stands at an intersection hiding their face in some manner and asks the first person passing by a question. We see quite a few of these, with the responses varying from jokes to genuine advice to spiteful cruelty.
  • Serial Escalation: The woman in the second chapter keeps having worse issues to deal with, asking countless questions seeking advice and always taking the worst options, destroying her life with increasingly drastic and damaging choices. Her question was dismissed by the crossroads boy with a remark to find a bigger problem, Rather than taking the response as a dismissal or an opportunity to reexamine the severity of her issues, the woman fell into a quest to literally find a bigger problem and do it again each time she worsens her life. When she self-immolates and is hospitalized, the question remains whether she was suicidal or whether she was just creating a bigger problem for herself.
  • Slashed Throat: Possibly as a side effect of whatever has gripped the town, the girls all commit suicide by cutting their necks with box cutters.
  • Stalker with a Crush: The girls told they will never succeed in love turn into these, first with Suzue Tanaka toward Ryusuke, and then with a swarm of victims toward the beautiful boy.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Invoked, as Ryusuke starts to doubt his sanity and wonder if he and the boy at the crossroads are one and the same, especially after others reach that conclusion, but the evidence he sees have been planted by his friend trying to get Ryusuke to kill himself and join Suzue so her ghost will leave him alone.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Who'd have thought all this insanity would be caused by some guy having an affair and getting his mistress pregnant?

Alternative Title(s): Undying Love, Intersection Fortune Telling, Lovesick Dead