Manner of Death Volume 1 is very good. I stress that it’s Volume 1 because, being an ongoing mystery story, its serialized nature is more important than in some of the other manga I’ve reviewed recently. It’s a stylish enough BL crime thriller that I can ignore that it’s founded on two crime fiction tropes I cannot stand: the hero is a genius medical examiner, and characters do stupid things out of lust. Since “horny makes you stupid” what makes the erotic part of this erotic thriller work, I accept it, but real cops I’ve known have told me, “Medical examiners are just doctors too drunk to work on the living.”
Dr. Bunnakit is a 30-year-old closeted gay man with two close friends: an ex-girlfriend and a guy he grew up with. He needs a supporting cast and he needs them to be introduced quickly, because once the killer starts to threaten and attack him, we want suspects. The reveal of the killer will hit readers differently depending how well they know the whodunit genre. We’re supposed to believe
that it could be anyone, but the art and writing both fall down on that score, as it’s pretty easy to narrow down who the supposedly unisex masked figure could be.
That said, it’s not a failure for a whodunit to have clues that lead to the most logical suspect. In fact, that’s the kind of mystery I like. Besides, by the time the initial crime is solved, it’s the least of Dr. Bunn’s problems, as he knows that even if his new love interest isn’t the killer, he’s in no sense trustworthy. It’s called BL (Boys Love), after all, not BLT (Boys Love and Trust). The last third of Volume 1 develops into the gay love child of The Godfather and Basic Instinct.
Usually, when I get to the end of the first volume of a manga, my main concern is whether there’s enough plot for a second volume. Means of Death has no such problem. Dr. Bunn has repeated flashbacks to his past that at first seem to be included to explain his discomfort with his sexuality, but on closer reading introduce characters and plot points I suspect we’ll see later.
Manner of Death is based on a Taiwanese drama that’s already finished and ends happily, but so far the manga has a long way to go toward any kind of happy ending. Volume 1 finishes on a very effective cliffhanger, something I haven’t seen in a lot of manga debuts lately. Recommended.