The Last Promise
Summary: A quintet of ghost stories: some are literal ghosts, some the figurative ghosts of memories. In Link, two angels (or devils?) meddle in the lives of humans seeking their wishes granted. Sagashimono tells the story of an odd company that finds lost items for hire, and their unusual client with an unusual loss. The title story centers around the strong attachment between boys and their dogs. Uragiri is a split personality tale with a twist, and Joubutsu is a classic ghostly love story.
Makoto's Notes: These stories were written over the span of nearly a decade, and the book reads like a backwards history of Koide-sensei's career. She has always written stories involving ghosts and the occult, and some of her best are catalogued here.
The Link stories are some of my favorite bits from anywhere, period. "Zero" and "Ichi" are mysterious sidewalk jewelry salesman with an unusual claim: some of their goods, in the hands of the right customer, will grant their wish. Ryou, on his way to a party, stops by first. He has an unrequited love for Takumi-san, a kind chef who took care of him when he was younger. Ryou wishes he could be Haruka, Takumi's wife, but when his wish is granted he discovers that Haruka is keeping a dark secret that threatens Takumi's life. In the second story, cute little Yuu-kun loses a precious box given to him by his stepbrother Haruto... but he doesn't know what's inside, so how could he hope to retrieve it? A sweet story of a blended family trying to make things work.
This book belongs in the collection of any Koide-sensei fan, particularly to see the huge changes in her art. Joubutsu dates back to her original Houkago no Shokuinshitsu doujinshi, with sketchy figures, longer faces, and the overly-detailed backgrounds of an artist trying to prove herself in the industry. Link's art is much cleaner and more stylized, but the emotion remains just as strong. And post-script, she draws incredibly cute puppies.
There is furigana for names, places, and some difficult words. The earlier stories are pretty darned verbose to boot. I needed to check my dictionary quite a bit, because misreading a clue in a mystery story is the kiss of death.
Warnings and Suggestions: I'd give it a PG-13 for mature themes. Safe for all but the gentlest of souls, but it deals with some difficult issues.