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Manga / Nijigahara Holograph

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Nijigahara Holograph is a seinen Psychological Horror manga by Inio Asano. It was originally published in QuickJapan from 2003 to 2005, running for 13 chapters. Fantagraphics released its English translation in 2018.

Eleven years in the past, Arié Kimura's classmates pushed her down a well into the tunnel system in the Nijigahara embankment. In the current day, those same classmates must now deal with their lives and how the psychological and emotional ripple effect of what they did has affected them. All the while, a strange prophecy first spoken by Arié about a monster that will bring about the end of the world hovers over them, and eerie butterflies are seen more and more frequently.

This manga provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • The one time that Arié and her father are seen together, his hands are about to close on her head or neck from behind before she speaks. His tentpoled underwear a few panels later speaks volumes about his intentions.
    • One of Sakaki's children has bruises on their shoulder, as if they were gripped painfully tightly.
    • Amahiko's stepmother seems to not care about him at all, even remarking at one point that he should die.
  • Anachronic Order: The story frequently jumps between the characters' childhoods and the modern day, showing both their past actions and how their lives have been influenced by them in the present day.
  • Arc Words: "The butterflies that had been pulled apart by fate shall become one." Either said or written by multiple characters, it might refer to the classmates who mistreated Arié, or the butterfly pendant formerly worn by Amahiko and Arié's mother, whose halves are eventually worn by the two siblings when they encounter each other after Arié wakes from her coma, or Amahiko and Arié themselves, as they were separated when they were very young, or any or all of those.
  • Art Reflects Personality: At the start of ch. 4 Maki is chided by her college art teacher, who calls her work "nothing but technical skill" and boring, wishing to see her emotion and passion. She sulls up over this, but the teacher's comments prove to be on point as the story goes on and her vampish nature becomes more and more clear.
  • Ax-Crazy: Makoto is a psychopath who is a figure of violence throughout the story. He raped Arié, and struck Sakaki in the face with a cinderblock when she intervened. Later, he tells Amahiko that he’s burned his own house down, showing him a bloodstained hammer when asked about the rest of his family. As an adult, he assaults Maki and probably would have killed her if Kohta hadn't speared him with an umbrella.
  • Barehanded Blade Block: A variant, and subverted. When an enraged Amahiko tries to hit Takahama with a large broom, Narumi tries to catch the broom in this way, but she either misses the grab or it goes through her hands, hitting her hard enough to break the handle and split her forehead open.
  • Broken Pedestal: Amahiko looked up to Sakaki and likely had some degree of crush on her, but after hearing her vent about her negative feelings toward her students, he becomes completely discouraged and reacts to her with the same sarcastic disdain he holds for pretty much everyone else.
  • Bully Brutality: While Takahama's bullies were mostly content to take his money, after Arié is pushed down the well, Kohta starts to really beat up Takahama, culminating in him pulling out a knife. However, he's stopped by Hayato, who hits him over the head with a piece of cinderblock after Kohta turns the knife on him.
  • Bugs Herald Evil: The butterflies, as described directly below, are pretty much a flashing neon sign crying 'bad news'.
  • Butterfly of Death and Rebirth: Cabbage butterflies appear throughout the story, both on their own and to some of the characters, sometimes glowing. Swarms of them pour out of the tunnel entrance in the Nijigahara embankment several times, and at one point can be seen doing so all over the city. They also sometimes cover characters who are in severe physical or emotional trauma. By the end, their numbers have increased to the point of causing significant public alarm.
  • By the Hair: As Makoto and Narumi are walking home, he asks if she's been reading his diary. When she denies it, he grabs her by the hair on top of her head and asks if she's lying. She says she is, although since Amahiko read a bit of a diary when he was over at their house a few chapters earlier, she may have been covering for him.
  • Country Matters: As Makoto is threatening Maki with his scissors:
    That ham-fisted makeup. That black cunt. The mole next to it. That can all go.
  • Dirty Coward: Amahiko sees Takahama as one after learning that he snitched about Hayato and his other bullies taking his money rather than doing something proactive like confronting them. It doesn't help that when he confronts Takahama about it and it turns into a larger confrontation between the two of them, Sakaki, and Takahama's mother, Takahama hides behind his mother and taunts Amahiko by quietly calling him an idiot after his mother says it.
  • Disposing of a Body: After hitting him over the head, Hayato dumps the unconscious (and, for all he knows, dead) Kohta down a well in the same manner as was done to Arié. Kohta does survive, but is never quite the same after.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Arié's mother slit her throat in the Nijigahara tunnel at some point after she left her husband. Near the end of the story, another woman is found dead in the tunnel with her throat cut. Given the last time Sakaki is seen is at the embankment, covered in butterflies and in deep emotional pain, the implication that it's her is very strong.
    • Amahiko walked off the roof of his former school after essentially being shunned by his classmates, although he only received injuries that hospitalized him.
  • Eye Scream: Sakaki lost her left eye as a result of the blow to her face, and keeps it covered with bandages (and later, an eyepatch). She eventually gets plastic surgery which apparently included a fake eye of some sort, as it doesn't move with her good eye.
  • Faked Gift Acceptance: Maki gives Makoto one of her paintings as a first step toward possibly taking their relationship further. He accepts the painting right away, but as soon as Maki walks out the door, he smashes it over his knee, which is the first sign to the reader that he's not at all what he appears to be. He later tells her what he did, which then leads to a violent assault on her.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • Sakaki and another teacher have a crude makeout session in a classroom, unaware that Amahiko and Narumi are hiding under a desk only a few feet away from them.
    • Two pointed instances involving Maki:
      • She starts to give Makoto a blowjob, the entire time talking about Arié and what was done to her.
      • She is naked when Makoto attacks her with the scissors, and he puts the scissors in her groin just before she gets away.
    • Near the end of the story, when Arié and Amahiko meet, he opens her robe, but when he sees the half-butterfly pendant between her breasts that is the mate to his, he first tries to rape her, and then beats her bloody and strangles her when she calls him "brother".
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Maki admits to Makoto that her reason for going along with what was done to Arié was her jealousy over Arié drawing Kohta's attention away from her
  • Gonk: Takahama is a chubby kid with round, slightly bulging eyes and almost simian facial features that make him look distinctly different from his classmates.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Makoto is run through with an umbrella by Kohta.
  • Insurance Fraud: In the current day parts of the story, Kohta and Arié's father work together at a supermarket under the supervision of one of Kohta's former teachers. While at work, Kohta overhears the supervisor telling Arié's father that he's being reassigned to the meat packing department and pointedly suggesting that he should use the meat slicer to maim his hands so that he can use the resulting insurance money to pay off his debts to the market's owner.
  • "Just Joking" Justification:
    • A very dark exchange between Sakaki and Hatori as their divorce is impending:
      Hatori: When are you moving out?
      Sakaki: Tomorrow I'll send my things. The day after that I'll leave. After I kill you and the children.
      *Beat Panel*
      Hatori: You're joking, right?
      Sakaki: That's right.
    • During a tense scene as Amahiko's stepmother talks about them moving:
      So we're going to go far away...and start over. When that time comes, you just die, okay? ...I'm joking. Now where has your father gone?
  • Love Letter: Maki tries to give Kohta one, but he is still distraught over what happened to Arié and completely blows her off.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • "Nijigahara" can be written as "the plain of the rainbow" or "the plain of two children". When Sakaki notices the latter on a sign at the embankment, her husband relates an old legend about kudan (a youkai in the form of a cow with a human face that was a Portent of Doom before its death) and how, whenever the former inhabitants sent a dead kudan down the river at that spot, twin kudans would be found there later. Throughout the story, many scenes of physical violence or emotional pain take place at that spot, especially when two children are present, and both touch Amahiko and Arié near the end, especially in the reveal about them in the last chapter. Also, the prophecy mentions the woman's head being cut off by the villagers; both Arié's mother and another woman kill themselves there by cutting their throats.
    • A holograph is a document written entirely by the person whose name appears on it, such as a deed, will, etc. Nijigahara Holograph can be interpreted as the story of that area of land and how it affects everyone who comes into contact with it.
  • Mind Screw: This is without question the most impenetrable and outright strange of Asano's works, with a constant feeling of mystery about what is real and what's in characters' heads, jumping timelines, and characters seeming to be jumping around in the timeline. The blurb on the back of the English printing’s cover describes it as “David Lynchian”.
  • My Greatest Failure: Kohta is guilt-ridden over his failure to protect Arié from what happened to her, and channels his frustration and anger first into his bullying of Takahama, and then into the incident with the knife that led to his head injury and being thrown into the well. As an adult, he still harbors violent anger and takes it out on people involved with harming Arié. He kills his supervisor at his job, who had made a veiled threat toward Arié's father, and then non-fatally cuts Arié's father's neck, possibly out of frustration for his failure to be a good parent. Later on, he saves Maki from Makoto, possibly out of a genuine desire to help but more likely because as a kid, he saw Makoto running away after raping Arié and injuring Sakaki.
  • Nobody Likes a Tattletale: Takahama tattles on his bullies rather than confronting them or taking another action. When Amahiko learns this, he angrily confronts Takahama, considering him to be a Dirty Coward.
  • Oh, Crap!: Near the end of the story, Hayato starts to have a meltdown in the police headquarters as the news reports that the swarms of butterflies are increasing to truly alarming numbers, and his superior tells him that a woman has committed suicide in the Nijigahara tunnel, just like 10 years ago.
    It's... It's the monster. The monster is on the move. *starts screaming*
  • The Reveal: Amahiko and Arié are twins. Their mother was assaulted by their father when they were very young; she left him, taking Amahiko with her. He doesn't learn the truth until Arié wakes from her coma and finds him at the Nijigahara embankment, in an eerie and very disturbing manner that mirrors what happened to their mother.
  • Room Full of Crazy: The room over the cafe where Maki works. Makoto has a doll which he believes is Arié inside at a table and has written hundreds of diaries of what he thinks is her account of what is supposed to happen when the world ends, in an insane fixation on her and the story they created all those years ago.
  • Scars Are Forever:
    • Hayato still carries the scar on his cheek from when Kohta cut him. It didn't help that Maki ripped the bandage off in a moment of anger with him over how he and the others were treating Kohta afterward.
    • Sakaki's plastic surgery wasn't completely able to repair the damage to her face, and she still has some scarring around her left eye.
  • Schrödinger's Butterfly: The story of Zhuangzi and his dream of the butterfly is taught by Sakaki in ch. 9. Beyond this, several characters at one point or another question how much of what has happened to them is something they've dreamed, and the story is set up in a way that makes it possible that parts of it are actually Arié's dreams while she lies comatose.
  • Sensei-chan: Subverted by Sakaki. She's young, pretty, and affectionate toward Amahiko, treating him better than his own stepmother. However, as she is talking to the teacher that she eventually starts making out with, she reveals that she had begun to hate Arié since getting hurt saving her from Makoto, which turned into a complete apathy toward what eventually happened to her and toward the bullying of Takahama. That bitterness poisons her all the way into adulthood, and leads to abusing her own children and the collapse of her marriage.
  • Stock Shoujo Bullying Tactics: After his blowup toward Takahama, Amahiko gets a note tossed onto his desk saying "Starting today, we're going to ignore you." Later, he snaps when he finds a vase of flowers on his desk as if he were dead, and trashes the classroom in a rage, flashing back to what his former classmates did to him that led to his attempted suicide as he does. It takes a Cooldown Hug from Narumi to get him to stop.
  • Traumatic Haircut: When Makoto attacks Maki, the first thing he does is snip off part of her hair with scissors. She is later shown with her hair trimmed to that length, which matches the same hairdo she had when she was in school with Arié and the others.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: Arié frequently said "The monster in the tunnel will bring about the end of the world." The story spread throughout the school, and after her mother was found dead in the tunnel inside the Nijigahara embankment, her classmates had had enough and seven of them pushed her into the well, thinking getting rid of her would set things right. Later on, it's revealed that these events mirror a story Arié had been creating with Makoto about a woman who comes to a village and gives a prophecy about a monster that will cause the end of the world, only to be killed by seven of the villagers and discarded to feed the monster, and the cycle continuing with her reincarnations. By the end of the story, the end of the world may very well be underway.
  • The Vamp: Maki has grown up to be cold, emotionally distant, and manipulative. She seems to try to seduce Makoto, and by the end of the story is effectively keeping Kohta prisoner in his apartment, taking advantage of his mental lapses to establish herself as his girlfriend, which she's apparently been doing for a while.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Overlapping with Love at First Punch in a twisted way. Amahiko at first seems to barely tolerate Narumi, then when he first kisses her, he immediately punches her in the face afterward, although apparently not hard enough to leave a mark since she's shown a page or two later seemingly unharmed.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • In a strange twist which is implied to be the prophecy about the monster at work, Arié seems to be a magnet for people who would hurt her. Her father either was or was considering raping her, she's raped by Makoto, and is eventually pushed down the well by her classmates, causing injuries that leave her comatose. She doesn't even escape this then, as she is shown being raped by a hospital orderly and when she wakes up and reveals herself to Amahiko, he snaps and tries to rape her then apparently kills her, although that timeline may have been erased.
    • Takahama ends up going insane. As an adult, he's shown wandering the halls of the school and sitting in an empty classroom, seemingly unable to say anything other than "...buh...buh...". He's later revealed to have stabbed a student, and screams to the police about the prophecy when he's arrested.