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Manga / The Laughing Target

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One of the more obscure works from Rumiko Takahashi of Ranma ½ and Inuyasha fame, The Laughing Target (Warau Hyōteki) is a 1983 horror one-shot manga that was later adapted into an OVA in 1987. While using some popular tropes from Takahashi, it takes a darker turn by playing them for drama. It also features one of the first examples of a modern Yandere.

The story goes as follows: Yuzuru Shiga is the last descendant of a branch of the Shiga family. As the family is an ancient clan that is about to disappear, the parents agree that the best course of action for the clan is to get him married with his cousin, Azusa. Yuzuru moves out to Tokyo to study, and years later Asuza's mother dies in mysterious curcumstances.

Meanwhile, Yuzuru is now living a normal life as the lead of the school's archery team not paying much attention to the arrangement, and also has a girlfriend called Satomi. Unfortunately, Azusa comes to Tokyo to seal the deal, and chaos ensues.


Laughing Target provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Badass: In the manga, Satomi's a Damsel in Distress throughout the story. In the anime, she grabs an arrow during Azusa's final attack on Yuzuru and stabs her in the forehead.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: After being fatally wounded by an arrow, Azusa admits that she could never hurt Yuzuru and dies from her wound with a peaceful smile on her face.
  • Apologetic Attacker: In the manga, Azusa's mother tries to strangle her in her sleep, then apologizes when she wakes up during the attempt...while continuing to try to see it through.
  • Arranged Marriage: One of the driving forces of the story. Azusa's and Yuzuru's parents decided to engage them when they were kids. With her mother dead, Azusa wants to honor the engagement while Yuzuru has moved on.
  • Attempted Rape: It's revealed that back in her childhood, Azusa killed a boy in self defense after he and others tried to gang-rape her. It turns out this is where her demonic powers first manifested. She ends up killing a group of delinquents that corner her in the present as well.
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  • Asshole Victim: The delinquents and the kids that tried to force themselves on Azusa.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: One of the main reasons even after many years, Azusa is still devoted to Yuzuru. He promised he would always be there for her.
  • Berserker Tears: Mixed with Broken Tears. Azusa shows them in the finale while being rejected by Yuzuru, who is horrified by her at that point.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Yuzuru is a good boyfriend to Satomi, and patient with Azusa despite the latter's eccentric behavior and clingy nature towards him. However, once it becomes clear that Azusa possesses demonic powers and wants to kill Satomi, he's prepared to resolve the situation more sternly than you'd expect from a high school student. Even if it means shooting Azusa in self-defense.
  • Break the Cutie: Between her boyfriend's cousin trying to come between them, terrorizing her in increasingly paranormal ways, killing her dog, then just trying to straight-up murder her, it's safe to say Satomi's got plenty of reason to be a tearful wreck by the climax.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Yuzuru's skill on the archery team. It ends up becoming instrumental in saving Satomi's life during the climax.
  • Chick Magnet: In typical Takahashi fashion, Yuzuru is one, which irritates Satomi as he leans into it with their underclassmen by showing off in the archery club.
  • Childhood Marriage Promise: Between Yuzuru and Azusa, and is what drives the conflict in the present. Yuzuru never quite took said promise seriously and would wind up finding a girlfriend in Satomi a few years into his move to Tokyo. Azusa, however, took the promise to heart and intends to see it fulfilled.
Yuzuru: Dear God, Azusa! That was how long ago?? We were only children then!
Azusa: So? Is there anything wrong with promises made by children? Are they any less sacred?
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Satomi, playing much like your typical Takahasi female lead. She's not happy when Yuzuru tells her about Azusa. Mind you, Azusa herself is much worse, what with the whole "summon-ghosts-to-Murder the Hypotenuse" thing.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: After Azusa crushed the head of her attempted rapist with a rock, a group of spirts appear to eat the body away. Azua thinks of them as friends and under their influence becomes increasinly comfortable with killing anything that inconveniences her. To top it all off, this attitude likely started when Azusa's mother dismisses the (as far as she knows) missing boy as riff raff that's better off gone..
  • Despair Event Horizon: Asuza hits this hard when it becomes clear that Yuzuru won't sit by and let her come between him and Satomi by way of murder. Cue Villainous Breakdown.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: In the manga Yuzuru holds Azusa while she's dying after fatally wounding her with an arrow.
  • Freudian Excuse: Azusa has good reasons for being a little...eccentric. Between a traditionalist mother warping her values, almost being raped as a kid and being forced to kill her attacker in self-defense, and then falling under the influence of evil spirits, she never had much of a chance at a normal life.
  • Game Face: Azusa, to the point that it's the image provided as the OVA's box art on the Manga UK releases.
  • Hereditary Curse: It turns out the Shiga Clan has one that is inherited by the head of the clan. Which in this case would be Azusa.
  • If I Can't Have You…: In the OVA Azusa tries to murder Yuzuru along with Satomi after being rejected for the last time. Played with in the manga, where it's implied she's facing a Sanity Slipage courtesy of the hungry ghosts manipulating her to get human meat.
  • Kick the Dog: Almost literally. In the backstory, Asuza poisoned a dog that bit her and watched it die with satisfaction; in the present day, she murders Satomi's pet dog, Jun.
  • Kid with the Leash: The hungry ghosts attack on Asuza's command.
  • Kissing Cousins: One-sided. Azusa is committed to her cousin Yuzuu, but he's devoted to Satomi.
  • Mind over Matter: A window shatters near Satomi in the school without apparent reason, which freaks her out.It was Azusa comanding the hungry ghosts.
  • More Than Mind Control: It's implied that while Asuza was influenced into her murderous impulses by the hungry ghosts, they were taking advantage of her somewhat warped values and childhood trauma.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Yuzuru has a brief moment of regret after trying to strangle Azusa in desperation, since he knows she's trying to kill Satomi after her dog was murdered.
  • Mood Whiplash: The one-shot starts innocently enough and you could miss it as another romcom out of Takahashi. Then Azusa reveals her demonic powers and killing intent towards Satomi.
  • Master Archer: Both Yuzuru and Satomi qualify, being the leads of the Archery Club at School.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Azusa wants to murder Satomi to have Yuzuru to herself.
  • Never Found the Body: Azusa's Hungry Ghosts are able to dispose of anyone she kills by feasting on their carcasses. Also happens to her at the end.
  • Offing the Offspring: Azusa's mother tries to strangle her daughter to death upon realizing their clan's curse has to end with the clan itself. The hungry ghosts end up overwhelming Mrs. Shiga instead, killing her.
  • Poor Communication Kills: If Satomi had told Yuzuru what was going on with Azusa after the incidents with the shattering window and the arrows, it's likely he would have realized something was up and tried to stop Azusa sooner.
  • Prehensile Hair: In the anime, this is Azusa's final gambit to try and kill Yuzuru.
  • Rain of Arrows: Downplayed, but Satomi faces one while Azusa is trying to kill her with her own arrows.
  • Secret-Keeper: Satomi becomes one, who becomes mortified upon finding out about Azusa's demonic powers and fearing for her life if she tells Yuzuru about it.
  • Self-Made Orphan: As it turns out, Azusa did this to her mother. Or, more accurately, the hungry ghosts that follow her did so, though it's unclear whether they did so on her order, or acted independently to protect their host.
  • She Knows Too Much: Azusa sees Satomi this way, after she accidentally let out the Hungry Ghosts in front of her.
  • Shrinking Violet: This is the first impression Azusa gives upon arriving to Tokyo. Turns out in reality she simply Does Not Like Men other than Yuzuru. There's a good reason for that.
  • Staking the Loved One: Yuzuru's forced to kill Azusa once it becomes clear she's beyond saving. Granted, it's more of a platonic example on Yuzuru's part.
  • Slashed Throat: This happens to Satomi's dog, courtesy of Azusa.
  • Taking You with Me: Azusa tries this in the anime adaptation after Yuzuru deals her a fatal wound with his bow.
  • Tender Tears: Azusa feels genuinely heartbroken after Yuzuru tries to strangle her.
  • Unrequited Tragic Maiden: Azusa dies in Yuzuru's arms, and tells him she's forever devoted to him.
  • Unstable Powered Woman: It's implied Azusa is as much suffering from her being host to her hungry ghost pets as she is protected by it. This is compounded by the fact that most every problem she's faced up until her intended union with Yuzuru could be solved by their use . Unfortunately for her, it only serves to push Yuzuru further away.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Azusa goes ballistic in the final act of both the manga and OVA, even lunging at Yuzuru in desperation when he tries to drive her off with a wounding shot in the arm.
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: Gone wrong. Azusa is the product of a strict and traditional household and was expected to fulfill a Childhood Marriage Promise with her cousin Yuzuru to keep the family line alive. Azusa unfortunately also had the odds stacked against her almost from the start, all thanks to experiences from her youth as well as becoming the host to parasitic demons exclusive to her bloodline.