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Manga / Nightmare Inspector

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"Sleep now, and leave this world behind..."

Yumekui Kenbun (夢喰見聞) or Nightmare Inspector: Yumekui Kenbun in the English translation, is a Shōnen Horror series written and illustrated by Shin Mashiba, set in the end of the Taisho era. It takes place mostly in Ginseikan (Silver Star in English), the teahouse run by Mizuki Asahina. The manga began serialization in the shoujo magazine Monthly Stencile from 2001 to 2003, but later moved to the shonen magazine Monthly G Fantasy, where it ran from 2003 to 2007.

When a person has nightmares they go to Hiruko, a Baku, for help. Hiruko helps people by entering their nightmare with them with the help of his supernatural cane that puts them to sleep, and helping to sort the nightmare out before taking it to eat for himself. Hiruko has a preference for painful nightmares and will do anything to get one.

The series takes place over the course of nine volumes and is mostly episodic, and each chapter sees Hiruko helping a new client discover what their nightmare means. There is an overarching story about the origins of the baku and the histories of the Silver Star's residents Hiruko, Mizuki, and Hifumi, but the emphasis is on the customers.

This series provides examples of:

  • Animate Inanimate Object: Even a weather vane can be in love and have nightmares because of that unrequited love.
  • Anti-Hero: Hiruko usually acts selfish, shows that the only thing he really cares about are tasty dreams, but in actuality he has shown that he cares about certain customers and wants them to be happy.
  • A Love to Dismember: The body part in question isn't quite severed, but in one later chapter, a man bricks his wife up in a wall and leaves her arm sticking out, stroking it and talking to it.
  • All Just a Dream: Sometimes subverted in the individual stories, but grandly played straight in the end, when they find out that just about everything that happened since Chitose took over as Hiruko the Baku is all a massive nightmare created by Azusa, with the help of the Delirium.
  • Ax-Crazy: Mizuki Asahina and Hiruko say that dangerous sleepwalkers running into Ginseikan is a common occurrence.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Many, many examples across the stories. For a few notable ones:
    • A girl in one story gets two instances of this when she wishes, prior to the story, that something exciting could happen to her when she's in a rut caused by her writing down "tomorrow will repeat today" in her dreams. Unthinkingly, she writes "tomorrow you will stab someone." Horrified, the girl now wishes that she could return to her old rut, and she asks Hiruko to rewrite her dream. As she instructs, he writes down "tomorrow will repeat today," leading to her repeating the entire episode, attempted stabbing and all.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • Some of the stories end this way; for example, the first story has the weather vane able to hold the dead mistress of his mansion, as he longed to do for so long, but he's just a weather vane, and presumably he can't give her a proper funeral.
    • Another story has a woman who was losing her memories in her dreams; she recovers enough of her memory to know that she had suffered a painful breakup, and she resolves to move on and make new memories. But she conveniently forgot that she tried to murder the man she broke up with, who was in the hospital for three months with a stab wound. She presumably escapes justice because of this.
    • Not to mention the ending of the entire series: while Azusa's nightmare/fantasy of making Chitose the next baku ends and he and Mizuki are reunited, Chitose is revealed to be nothing more than a figment of Azusa's imagination brought to life by his nightmare/fantasy and, once it ends, fades away. The worst part is that he finally got all the happiness he was missing while being abused, and once he realizes it he can do nothing but disappear.
  • Body Horror: A woman has dreams about losing different body parts: Her arms, eyes, and an ear. She discovers that she had a painful breakup and she was forgetting the memory by losing the ear that heard her love say goodbye, the hand that parted with his, and the eyes that saw him leave. She leaves the hand behind in the dream that was a "good memory" so that she could start fresh. That was the hand that she had stabbed him with out of anger. She gets away with the crime because she couldn't remember stabbing him because she never regained that memory.
  • Cloud Cuckooland: The Delirium. If you get locked in a room there, you live out your biggest fantasy until you either die or realize it's all a delusion.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Kairi, The Delirium's owner, who is often found lost in a nonsensical fantasy.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Chitose Kurosu, Hiroku's old identity, was treated as a toy and tortured by his previous masters. This led him to dream for a happier life, a fantasy which would become deluded into a nightmare.
  • Dead All Along: Several clients turn out to be dead. Also, the real Chitose, with the current Chitose being a dream made real.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The series loves making it seem as if a customer's story will end happily, then introducing a sudden out-of-nowhere twist or reveal that puts a much more sinister twist on things. One example is the girl Chikage, who's suicidal because she's mourning the loss of her love. Hiroku encourages her to kill herself in her dream, which, contrary to actually killing her, allows her to move on from her loss and find happiness with another young man. The story ends a couple days later with the young man coming back with the exact same problem... because Chikage was killed off-screen in an accident.
  • Eyes Always Shut: Tsukishiro, an evil rival baku, has these eyes.
  • Fanboy: A young man falls in love with a movie star and has reoccurring dreams about her committing suicide like she did in one of her movies.
  • Flashback Nightmare: Some of Hiruko's customers dream about things they've seen in reality or in their past, such as the man from "Characters" dreaming about him with his father in his father's last moments.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Several of the customers will end up dreaming about someone they're in love with who's unobtainable because they're with someone else. How they handle it leads to the resolution (for better or worse) of the dream.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: In one of the first chapters, a soft version of this happens to a customer, who every night writes in her dream on a piece of paper "tomorrow will be a repeat of today" and thus continues a monotonous daily routine. She tries to escape it by writing that she will stab someone tomorrow; horrified, she goes to Hiruko to rewrite the nightmare. Hiruko, per her request, writes "tomorrow will be a repeat of today," although unfortunately that means that she will repeat that day where she attempted to stab Hiruko, without any memory that she's done it before. The end of the chapter implies she's done this for several nights now.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Although a human customer does get a Bittersweet Ending or even a happy ending occasionally, they far more often have bad endings, and nearly all of them because of their own carelessness, foolishness, or selfishness. The non-human customers typically have better endings.
  • I Found You Like This: Kashina is introduced as the girl who helped Chitose survive during the time he was locked up and tortured. When she meets him again much later, she hugs him, and then kisses him shortly afterwards. Then it turns out she was imprisoned by the same people who tortured Chitose, and that she was only helping him because if he died, she'd be tortured next, making her arguably a deconstruction.
  • Love Hurts: Happens with many of Hiruko's customers, sometimes involving the death of some person or another.
  • Mandatory Twist Ending: Most of the short stories end with Hiruko discovering that not all was as it seemed with his customer and their troubles, from the very first ending that had the dreamer turn out to be a weather vane. This is to the point where when a chapter ends without a twist of some sort, it's so surprising it practically counts as a twist in itself.
  • Mind Screw: Among other weirdness like as found in the Delirium, the series is very unclear about when something is just a dream which affects nothing but the client's own mental health or when it's something that actually has an impact on the real world, leading it to have very confusing logic. The fact that the very first chapter has a dream coming from a weather vane is also pretty difficult to wrap one's head around.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: The Baku; the more disturbing and sorrowful a dream is, the better it tastes. Hiroku himself notes a few times that nightmares with blood and death taste particularly good.
  • Nightmare Sequence: The sequence after Hiroku sends his client to sleep marks the most surreal part of each short story. Most of them aren't too frightening, but they show up every chapter, besides a few exceptions.
  • Replacement Goldfish: It's implied at a few points in the series that Mizuki only sees Chitose, Hiruko the Baku's current vessel as a temporary replacement for her brother, Azusa, his predecessor.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Downplayed example; Azusa Asahina, Mizuki's older brother and former Baku, is kept in Hiruko's briefcase after being eaten by a nightmare instead of him doing the eating. The suitcase is said to exude an eerie and cold feeling.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Chitose, the current vessel of Hiruko the Baku, was encouraged by Hifumi and Mizuki to seek his own happiness, and he decides to actually try. Then he finds out that he was actually just a figment of Azusa's imagination, and is going to fade in about 2 hours.
  • The Killer in Me: Happens at least once with a customer trying to find out who killed someone, usually with amnesia involved in some way or another. One example is the man who believes he killed his cold and unaffectionate father when he was a child. He learns his father actually died protecting him as a human shield, and he lost the memory of it due to shock.
  • Trapped in TV Land: Overlaps with Dream Land in several cases, including a woman who wishes to be with her dead husband in a sketch of his and gets her wish (with unexpected consequences, of course), a nightmare where Hiruko enters a manga, and some other examples.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Many of the clients are hiding something, or have memories altered due to trauma. In several cases, the client is actually dead (or not even human to begin with!) already and we don't know until the end of the chapter.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Happened with the original Hiruko, who merged with Azusa as a way of "death", and later with Azusa himself. For both, having an extended life proved hazardous for their mental health.