Furudate Haruichi. If this name rings a bell, there can only be one reason why. With over 2 million volumes sold, 3 anime seasons, stage plays, radio dramas, video games and more, this manga artist and storyteller has been a sweeping sensation in recent Shounen history. And all thanks to one title, Haikyuu!!
I have a lot of passion for that series. In a swirling cesspool of sports manga clichés, Haikyuu!! has been the shining beacon, leading us away from the “Sky Inversion Drop Volleys” of Prince of Tennis and the “Invisible Man” of Kuroko no Basuke. Finally, sports mangas can actually be about sports again – rejoice!
While I could go on about the impact of this series to the genre (as well as its immense contribution to the yaoi doujinshi industry), it is – unfortunately – not why I’m here today. Instead, I come to tell a vastly different tale. One of middle school students, serial killers, and a student (?) obsessed with horror stories.
Kiben Gakuha, Yotsuya-senpai no Kaidan was published in 2010 and was Furudate Haruichi’s first serialisation in Shounen Jump. It spanned 22 chapters, making up 3 volumes, before it came to a close in the same year. Its story follows the tale of Yotsuya Buntarou; a phantom student, a school legend, far too old to still be in middle school. The only reason he seems to hang around is his fixation with creating the scariest horror stories, using the students and situations in the school to stage them.
At least, that’s what he claims to be doing. What cannot be denied is the grain of truth hidden in each one of his stories, and when told, reveals a reality that is far more horrific than its story ever was.
Having read the manga, it is undoubtedly a hidden gem in the psychological thriller genre; even if only for Yotsuya’s eccentric character. Think Hotaro Oreki from Hyouka meets The Joker from Batman. A mystery solver with questionable intentions, who uses his words to manipulate and twist his targets, driving them mad before they eventually reveal the truth.
Accompanied by Furudate’s creepy art style, the story runs darker than you would think. Expect a fair amount of blood, gore, and dislocated limbs. It really is hard to imagine that this imagery came from the same mind behind the cheerful and motivating Haikyuu!!
Yet, that’s what makes it interesting. When a manga artist is as established as Furudate, looking back at his roots can be very telling. Sometimes you will notice a few things that carry over from the past. In his case, in the first few chapters of Haikyuu!!, there is a clear horror influence in the way he draws certain panels. This can also been seen in more recent chapters, although to a lesser extent. (Old habits die hard, huh?)
On the other hand, his knack for storytelling has only improved. While Kiben Gakuha, Yotsuya-senpai no Kaidan was considerably repetitive, Haikyuu!! gave Furudate far more timeline to work with and aptly shows off his full potential as a story writer.
Personally, digging through my favourite manga artists’ history is a great way to find more appreciation in their work. It often leads me to become even bigger fans of them; especially seeing the ways they’ve improved, and in this case, different sides to their storytelling that I never even knew about!
If you are a fan of Haikyuu!!, or perhaps, just a fan of horror stories, give Kiben Gakuha, Yotsuya-senpai no Kaidan a shot! It’s a quick, entertaining read that will surely make you see Furudate Haruichi in a different light.