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Spirited Away: Missing Volume 1    by Gakuto Coda Amazon.com order for
Spirited Away
by Gakuto Coda
Order:  USA  Can
TOKYOPOP, 2007 (2007)
Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Spirited Away, the first book in the (prose) Missing series by Gakuto Coda, is one of the most thrilling books I read this past year. Some parts of it are truly terrifying, especially if you imagine how they would look in a Japanese horror movie, and this is what makes Spirited Away a compelling read.

Kyoichi Utsume has always been a little different, especially because of his fascination with the occult. One day, he meets a girl from another realm, and brings her to school, introducing her to everyone as his girlfriend. The other members of the Literature Club at Seisou Academy - Aki, Ryoko, Takemi, and Toshiya - think that there is something odd about Kyo's girlfriend, and Ryoko and Takemi try following them. When they lose Kyo and are attacked themselves by mysterious arms, they realize something serious is happening.

When Kyo fails to show up for school the next day and his cell phone keeps popping up as out of range, the four remaining members of the Literature Club delve into Kyo's books on folktales and urban legends and realize that they are up against a kami-kakushi, a spirit that steals people who are then never seen again (luckily for us Western readers, they compare it to stories of faeries in the United Kingdom who spirit away those unlucky enough to enter a faery circle). Seeking help from a magician and a ghost hunter, the teens set out to rescue their friend, but no story can prepare them for what they must face.

When I first started reading Spirited Away, I thought the dearth of complex sentences had something to do with the translation, but then I realized it was an ingenious technique on Coda's part to distance the reader and keep the story surreal. This technique adds to the mystery and horror, resulting in a book that cannot be put down - rather odd since most Western page-turners are those that completely draw readers into the story, rather than keeping them on the outskirts. Because of this, Coda's writing style may take a little getting used to for Western readers, especially those who have never read Japanese suspense, but just stick with the story for a little, and you will find yourself inexplicably compelled to read it.

While Spirited Away is the first in the 13-volume Missing series, it can stand on its own. This makes me wonder where Gakuto Coda takes the series next is it more about Kyo's searching for his missing brother, or do the Literature Club members happen into more supernatural circumstances, or does it take another turn entirely? I, for one, cannot wait to find out.

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