Story by Ryohgo Narita
Art by Shinta Fujimoto
Translated by Christine Dashiell
Lettering by Abigail Blackman
From the supernatural epic that is Baccano to the thrilling suspense of Durarara, Ryohgo Narita is able to masterfully create unrivaled casts and stories. That said, while Narita is well known for his light novels, he has also dabbled in manga as well. Narita’s ongoing manga Dead Mount Death Play pairs the talented writer with artist Shinta Fujimoto to create a thrilling action series. As the series enters its third volume, the story is continuing to develop with the introduction of new characters as well as greater mysteries.
Following Polka disclosing his identity as the Corpse God to Rozan Shinoyama, the story decides to momentarily shift away from the mysterious Fire-Breathing Bug. Rather, the volume introduces a new antagonist known as the Phantom Solitaire. Unlike previous enemies like Fire-Breathing Bug and Lemmings, Phantom Solitaire is distinct in his noramallacy. Phantom Solitair is open about his techniques being mere tricks and illusions, devoiding him of any supernatural presence. Against Polka’s Corpse God power, Phantom Solitaire serves as a fantastic foil, using ingenuity and insight to match the superhuman.
Volume 3 also adds Xiaoyu Lei to the supporting cast, a bodyguard of the Shinoyama family who seeks to kill Polka. While Rozan has ensured Polka’s safety and support, Lei disagrees with his master’s intentions. That said, Lei’s desire to kill Polka lies deeper than ensuring the safety of the Shinoyama household. Lei despises the original Polka for his weak nature and views himself as Rozan’s true son. It’s clear that there’s more to his backstory with the Shinoyama family, and it will be interesting to see how his character shapes out.
A key element introduced in the volume is a mark drawn during Polka’s fortune to Iwanome. Strangely enough, the mark appears to serve a greater purpose as a symbol related to Horosogi’s death. This also serves as an initial piece of tension between Polka and Iwanome, as Iwanome suspects that Polka is somehow connected to Horosogi. While the origins of the mark are revealed by the end of the volume, it provides even more questions to answer, making it an effective plot device for the narrative moving forward.
Shinta Fujimoto aptly complements Narita’s writing, drawing focus to vital points of the manga’s narrative. Fujimoto tends to have fairly sparse backgrounds in their artwork, primarily transitioning between a pure white and black. While this can appear a bit limited, it helps emphasize the changes in demeanor in the characters during interactions. That said, this doesn’t mean Fujimoto’s artwork is sparse in general. Rather, during high tension scenes, their art becomes meticulously detailed, emphasizing the chaos of the situation. This is best showcased during Phantom Solitaire’s numerous techniques, providing them with ample spectacle for the reader. Fujimoto’s art and Narita’s writing are a strong combination that continue to make Dead Mount Death Play entertaining.
As usual, the end of the volume contains a bonus story focused on the Corpse God’s former enemy Shagrua. Following Volume 2’s short story, Shagrua ventures to the Abandoned Peninsula to learn more about the Corpse God and find the closure that he seeks. What these stories have excelled at is presenting the turmoil that Shagrua is facing at the death of his enemy. He’s begun to question if he was justified in taking the Corpse God’s life and if he had stopped the Corpse God from defeating the greater evil of the Geldwood Church. These short stories continue to be on par with Narita’s writing in his full-fledged works, and it makes me excited for the next installment.
Dead Mount Death Play continues to be an entertaining read that both intrigues and excites readers at every turn. Following the reveal at the end of Volume 3, it’s clear that there will be huge developments in the next installment. It will be interesting to see what Narita has in store for readers as we dive deeper into the series.