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Manga / MPD Psycho

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Warning — Here, there be nightmares.

"One of the others inside my head... Awakens. Another and another and... Who... Who am I...?"
Yosuke Kobayashi.

A Serial Killer is loose in the streets of Tokyo, one that delights in leaving the gruesome remains of his victims on display for the police to find. Yosuke Kobayashi, a dedicated young cop with Japan's major crimes task force known as Investigations Section One, has been working diligently to solve these horrendous crimes that have captured the media's attention. Lately, though, his dreams have been haunted by blood, darkness, and worst of all, visions of himself standing above the dismembered victims with knife in hand.

Pushing these dark thoughts aside, Yosuke focuses all of his time and energy (and his brilliant knack for criminal profiling) into finding the monster behind these attacks and putting a stop to them once and for all. The killer makes it personal, however, when his next target turns out to be Detective Kobayashi's girlfriend, the mutilated but still living body of whom the killer delivers directly to Yosuke's office. Enraged, Kobayashi finally manages to track down the psychopath who is responsible. When he finds the killer to be laughing and unrepentant, though, something within him breaks, and the man who once was Yosuke Kobayashi becomes something irrevocably different.

Several years later, the man known as Yosuke Kobayashi is about to be released on parole, having served out his sentence for the crime of criminal negligence in the cold-blooded killing of the lunatic that maimed his girlfriend. Ever since the killing and his subsequent arrest, he has gone only by the name of Kazuhiko Amamiya. Amamiya claims that he is an alternate personality of Kobayashi (who is a victim of Multiple Personality Disorder), and that the "Kobayashi" personality died when another, far more violent personality named Shinji Nishizono arose to take Kobayashi's revenge on the serial murderer.

Upon his release, Amamiya is recruited into a private criminal investigations firm: One that can make use of his unmatched profiling skills, and that seems more than willing to overlook his disorder. Serial murders are on the rise, more frequent and gruesome than ever before. With the dark whispers of Shinji Nishizono echoing in his mind, Amamiya and his firm aid the police in their investigations. Though the nature and method of each new murderer is different, and there is seemingly no relation from one to the next, Amamiya soon finds a connection. Each of the killers has a strange mark on the white of their left eye, just beneath the eyelid. A mark in the shape of a barcode...

The same kind of mark that is on Amamiya's own left eye...

MPD Psycho is a Psychological Horror / Detective Manga written by Eiji Otsuka (The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service) and illustrated by Shou Tajima (Kill Bill, Galerians). It was originally released in 1997, and and ran until 2016. It is licensed in North America by Dark Horse Comics. In 2002 the series received a six episode live-action miniseries adaptation, directed by controversial filmmaker Takashi Miike.

This series contains examples of:

  • Accidental Aiming Skills: When Zenitsu comes to kill Toguchi astride a combat helicopter, he has a good laugh when a full auto barrage in his general direction fails to hit him. Then his helicopter crashes into the next building over because a stray round killed his pilot.
  • Anyone Can Die: And the death will likely be messy.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The serial suicides in one of the cases are motivated into killing themselves by the promise of becoming angels.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Michelle Partner (who is a man) and Miss Having (who has many names).
  • Author Appeal: Eiji Otsuka has a thing for showing mutilated naked bodies of young women, massive body trauma from bullets and explosions, Eye Scream, and BDSM.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Lee Harvey Oswald and Mark David Chapman are stated to be members of the original Lucy Seven, high impact killers inspired by Lucy Monostone's legacy.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: The Candyman's black and white eyes either have the sclera maxed out or black irises. Considering his occupation, it's probably the former.
  • Body Surf: Mixed in with Powers as Programs, Came Back Wrong and a lot of confusion.
  • Brain Food: Used in nightmarish fashion by one flower loving serial killer who cuts open his victims skulls to use their brains as flower pots. While they're still alive.
  • Break the Cutie: The serial killer in the 1st chapter taunts Detective Kobayashi by telling him that he raped his girlfriend, multiple times, while in the process of cutting off her arms and legs.
  • Brown Note: The songs of Lucy Monostone has been shown to have mind altering effects on its listeners, in a messy Whole Episode Flashback, we're shown what it does to rabbits.
  • Call-Back: The weird full page pictures of girls in various states of undress and / or dismemberment at the start of each chapter, including some of Machi and Miwa? They get referenced by the plot many issues after they first appear.
  • Character Development: Amamiya becoming more empathic because of Miwa and Machi. Sasayama becoming a better detective once Kobayashi and later Amamiya stop helping him. Tetora becoming less prone to Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
  • Character Overlap: The cop Sasayama also appears in Ohtsuka's The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, plus a big scar on his head and minus a leg.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Whenever a long running character turns out to have a barcode, even if they have died a while ago.
  • Cover Version: °C rose to prominence as a cover artist performing Lucy Monostone's songs. The rearranged music produces a different psychotropic effect than the originals, however. It's one of the things that gets her killed.
  • Cult: Lucy Monostone led one. Multiple imitations soon followed, though "Lucy Seven" — sets of seven people, all inventive serial killers, is the recurring one in the series.
  • Deadline News: Toguchi again. He used to be a war correspondent, so he's not queasy around the gruesome deaths. Played with, however, when it turns out his missing eye was bar-coded, and while he dies as per this trope, it's because he himself goes on a killing spree while reporting on it! The unnamed character that sort of replaces him on TV later on is notably a much more boring ordinary 'stay far away from the action' type.
  • Death by Irony: Some of the perpetrators are dealt with in the same manner as how they treated their victims.
  • Decoy Protagonist:
    • Played with. Amamiya, or, rather the Amamiya that used to be Kobayashi, dies a third of the way in. Then comes back in a different body and is passed around by dominant personalities of several other bodies before coming to Tetora's possession.
    • But did you think Machi would take over when Amamiya is out of the picture?? She gets a Grand Theft Me loyal to Gakuso and we're left with Sasayama and Tetora as deuteragonists.
  • Doppelgänger: EVERYONE SEEMS TO HAVE ONE. OR FIVE. This is later explained however the same company responsible for the barcode killers also had an Island-style side-business going on were they would clone the rich and famous in order for the clones to serve as spare parts.
  • Eye Remember: Apparently, since the barcoded eyes are artificial, you can download most things their owner saw with it into a computer. Sasayama gets understandably upset when this leads to the replay of Kobayashi's sex life and the mutilation of his girlfriend.
  • Eye Scream:
    • Brought into play frequently in the series, especially when a character decides to get rid of his own barcode once and for all. Or when someone else does this to them.
    • Toguchi wears an eyepatch. We are eventually shown just how he lost that eye.
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: Most of the cover arts. Unsurprising, considering the eye-barcode and Eye Scream obsession of the plot.
  • Face–Heel Revolving Door: Tetora Nishizono. He's introduced as a Foil to Shinji, then he kills him, then a bunch of other characters, big and small, then he essentially takes Shinji's place in the plot then he becomes a Deuteragonist. Sasayama is as surprised about this as the reader probably will be by that point.
  • Fantastic Drug: Whatever it is in the candies of the Candyman.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Many of the serial killers in this series seems to specialize in inflicting fates worse than death on their victims. See Break the Cutie and Brain Food for some specific examples.
  • Finger in the Mail: A killer sends one of the detectives looking for him the armless, legless torso of the detective's girlfriend in an ice chest.
  • Fingore:
    • Machi lost two of her fingers in a bombing earlier in her career. She wears prosthetics so as not to freak out her colleagues — which happens anyway when one day she forgets them.
    • Later on, one case involves a victim having his hands blown off by a bomb inside a gashopon machine. Naturally, we get a close-up of what's left of them.
  • Foreshadowing: Whenever anyone visits an eye doctor, be ready for nasty stuff to happen.
  • Gambit Pileup:
    • Exemplified by the Whole Episode Flashback as it contains a self-contained example with the conflicting intentions of °C, Kimihiko, Shinji, Wakana, whatever the true identity of Miwa is and Gakuso in general.
    • There is a "chicken or the egg" problem with Gakuso in general: did the recreation of Lucy Monostone come about as a result of the cloning and Body Surf research or was the business of 'spares' a byproduct of looking for a way to recreate Lucy? Many characters aligned with them seem to prioritize one to the harm of the other, and there is no clear split.
  • Generation Xerox: Koike Shoku, the man introduced as the nephew of Lucy Monostone. Naturally, it freaks most people out.
  • Genocide from the Inside:
    • A subdued form: some of Lucy Monostone's songs can inspire a 'kill each other' intention in a group of people (or other mammals). The Sole Survivor that comes out on top is irrevocably changed from the experience.
    • Wakana is the Sole Survivor of one such killing event, implied to be the mass suicide Lucy Monostone died in.
    • Shinji Nishizono is a split personality of Kazuhiko Amamiya that was spawned by a similar event. He invented the name himself, taking the surname of the last person he killed, the overseer of the experiment Gone Horribly Right.
  • Genre Shift: It starts out as a wacky hyperviolent detective drama with a Broken Ace protagonist and typical Villain of the Week antagonists. Then the Decoy Protagonist dies, gets reincarnated, becomes a MacGuffin while the story becomes a Conspiracy Kitchen Sink about clones and psychics, with Face–Heel Revolving Door aplenty.
  • Glory Hound: Sasayama has claimed most of the fame for solving cases based on Kobayashi's deductions for himself. Amamiya plays Kobayashi's role a few times as well. Downplayed — Kobayashi didn't want the fame (and he was right — when his face landed on TV, his girlfriend got abducted), and Amamiya is quite aware of their relationship. It's later shown that other detectives dislike Sasayama for this, however.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Both Shinji and Tetora do the things they were created for exceptionally well, especially TO their creators.
  • Gorn: Taken up to eleven in the live-action mini-series, as expected of director Takashi Miike
  • I'm a Psychologist Not Black Jack: Machi objects whenever people ask her to do 'cutting people' doctor things, culminating in this line. Doubles as a Shout-Out.
  • I Have Many Names: A subdued example with Having /Tue / Jorgman, she sheds her old name each time she shows up.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Quite a few characters die from clear shots to the heart or forehead whenever an actual shoot-out occurs, rather than another gruesome serial killing.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Toguchi, the one-eyed cameraman that would stop at nothing to get a scoop and thus shadows Amamiya and Machi for a good chunk of the plot.
  • Jedi Mind Trick: Those closer to recreating Lucy Monostone's soul can use certain aspects of his Brown Note powers, such as passive invisibility or getting them to see or do what you want. Even it's suicide or self-harm.
  • Kudzu Plot: Who's good, who's evil, who's barcoded, who's a clone, who's whose split personality? It's not helped by the quick succession of Only Six Faces supporting characters who often die within the same chapter they're introduced in, and may also be someone's clone. And that's before the Body Surf, Latex Perfection and Jedi Mind Trick abuse.
  • Mad Artist: Lucy Monostone, a prolific musician who killed himself to instigate a mass suicide in the 1960s, was also a known terrorist whose legacy spawned violent cults.
  • Made of Iron: Zenitsu is impossible to kill. Even getting exploded and most of his face burnt off didn't stop him, he just expands his arsenal of tricks to include fake faces best fitting to unnerve his victims.
  • Mercy Kill: Amamiya, when he was still Kobayashi, turned off his girlfriend's life support after she suffered her de-limbing. When the guy who did it to her mocked him for being the one to actually kill her, it triggered his DID for the first time, which directly led to him shooting the guy.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits: In a non-romantic use of the trope, Machi is very much against Amamiya using her sister Miwa in the investigation.
  • Mythology Gag: Fusehime Kirin, a very minor character, is the reincarnation of Kirin from Eiji Otsuka's 80s Madara - a fantasy manga that was planned to become a full multi-media franchise about the full 108 reincarnations of its main protagonist, but petered quickly; since then, it has become some kind of personal meta-mythology for the author who like to pepper references to it in his works.
  • Necessarily Evil:
    • Shinji Nishizono is the personality that usually deals with the Villain of the Week before the Time Skip.
    • The Gakuso project sees all the serial killers that are a byproduct of the barcoded eyes as this.
  • The Nudifier: Subverted. When Koike Shoku completes his set of souls necessary to unlock the powers of Lucy Monostone, he recreates his appearance. Full frontal nudity included. When Tetora kills him he reverts back to his old, clothed, self, indicating it was an illusion.
  • Only Six Faces: Played with. Most of the main cast are relatively unique and can be quickly told apart by their clothing or faces, but when doppelgangers start showing up, it's easy to get confused (especially if any are ever in the same location).
  • Phlebotinum Rebel: It's stated multiple times that Tetora is the closest anyone has ever come to fully reproducing the Charm Person Jedi Mind Trick powers of Lucy Monostone. Unfortunately, he'd rather use them to slaughter those who sought to resurrect Lucy in this way. Out of sheer spite.
  • Pixellation: The most gory scenes in the live-action series are pixelated. This is entirely averted in the manga.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Zig-zagged. Some people get a small hole on the forehead and that's it. Some get a small one on the forehead and half their skull is gone. And some have their heads blown right off - even within a span of a few pages and with the same shooter.
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: In a sorta kinda case of Demonic Possession, the personality of Lucy Monostone forces Kimihiko to blow his own brains out.
  • Psycho Serum: The process that creates the barcode killers involves this, among (many) other things.
  • Psychological Horror: The bread and butter of this series.
  • Restraining Bolt: The Candyman's candies help stabilize the more volatile creations of the barcoding project, without them they would go insane and/or drop dead (it varies from person to person depending on their state).
  • Shōnen: Was previously serialized in Monthly Shounen Ace from 1997 to 2007.
  • Shipper on Deck: Multiple characters remark on the obvious mutual attraction of Machi and Amamiya.
    • This turns to the worst when first Amamiya's body is killed when under Shinji's control, becoming a MacGuffin to be passed around as a key to stabilize the power of Lucy Monostone, and then when we learn that Machi is an artificial personality of Wakana who is one of Gakuso's researchers. Sasayama somehow makes it his goal to reunite them at any cost.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Toguchi, the one-eyed cameraman, is wearing an assortment of different eyepatches, among them is one with the avian skull mask of an Angel on it.
    • In general, Toguchi is a focus of this — we also see Gunpla models in his apartment, for example.
    • Continuing the Mobile Suit Gundam theme, Tetora's foreigner gang takes names of Gundam characters as codenames when masked.
    • The original dismemberment killer, whose crime triggered the protagonist's Heroic BSoD that started his MPD, has a PlayStation in his apartment.
    • One fight scene is basically a rapid fire exchange of Kamen Rider references to Evil Knockoff characters therein.
  • Spanner in the Works: Shinji is one to Gakuso. Tetora becomes one eventually as well.
  • Split Personality:
    • The driving force of the series are the myriad of personalities that share the body of Kazuhiko Amamiya, including a genius detective, a child, a cross-dresser, and a cold blooded killer. And that's just getting us started.
    • Once the Body Surf aspect comes along, anyone can apparently store multiple personalities in them, but many will go insane and die if they get even one in their body, while others, like Amamiya, are fine with a score of them. It's explicitly mentioned to depend on the physical body rather than the core personality it was born with, for the Grand Theft Me cases.
    • Exemplified when Tetora borrows the occasional delinquent's body — one outright kills himself when Tetora lets him go.
  • Stuffed In A Fridge:
    • Detective Kobayashi's girlfriend, mutilated but still alive, is delivered to his office stuffed in an ice-chest... Minus her arms and legs.
    • Gets a terrifying repeat in a later case when a band of copycats recreates the crime scenes of several of his earlier cases in the book.
  • Suicide Pact: The mass suicide of Lucy Monostone and his fanatical followers in the church. Multiple cases involve tributes to that one.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Lucy's suicide seems to have been the kickstart the Gakuso project needed to get going.
  • Time Skip: After the affair with Partner, Amamiya goes missing for six months.
  • Unsound Effect: Both played straight and for humor often in the manga series. At one point, when the protagonist adjusts his glasses after a morale boosting speech, his co-worker responds to the written sound effect with: "Did you just say 'Shining?'"
  • Winged Humanoid: One of Sasayama's cases deals with ritual killings of people with wings — uniquely deformed shoulder blades, in fact, but their killer takes the time to draw wings for them on whatever surface he leaves the body on.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: XX, the closest to Lucy Monostone a female can get.
  • You Are Number 6: °C. Yes, Degrees Celsius, except it's always spelled like that.