But I still don't know what 'this' is exactly. Just the trip to another world, away from here-- an analgesic against the pain of everyday life? Drugs, in a word, which is what manga was for me in Japan. Or is it the lure of the different, stuff one wouldn't and couldn't think of one's self? Or simply a matter of old friends met again after a year apart? Dunno. My usual reading feels-- well, at worst medicinal-- good for you and necessary but not intended to be pleasant-- and at best, undistinguished. I read Aubrey/ Maturin because it goes down easily and at least gives me a talking point with other readers (though the other readers then engage in character-bashing or book-bashing or at the very least spoilers) and only occasionally do I feel that sense of 'new and useful' that makes reading worthwhile. Certainly it gives me nothing like the intense pleasure that 100 Demons does.
(Then again, I wonder how different life would have been without my nagging insistance that things give me pleasure or I don't want to do them. 'You do what has to be done' gets you the good degrees and the high-paying jobs. Doing what has to be done gets me unmoving grey depression and the need for drugs like manga. Is why I also wonder if other people have some internal source of happiness they can draw on to offset the happiness-sucking demands of the everyday. The way extroverts get energy from being with other people, an idea it's taken me fifty years to begin to comprehend because *things just don't work that way.* Other people drain energy, the way objects fall down, not up.)
Yet the 100 Demons world isn't all that strange and wonderful per se. No trip to a different dimension here, just a domestic place filled with ordinary, rather vulgar, youkai. It has (for /me/, I hasten to say) none of the strangeness and borderline horror of the Mushishsi world. Mushishi is almost a textbook example of 'fantods'-- uneasy, antsy, weirded out. paleaswater says it makes her feel like the world is melting. If it were at all this-world, it would make me feel like the ground was hollow under my feet. But the manga has for me an indefinable beauty to it, even with its louring menace. It plays all the furusato notes, and even if I have no business harbouring furusato longings, well, I have a natural inclination to nostalgia and I lived in Japan long enough to have picked up that nostalgic archetype. (Real fantods for me are Copernicus no Kokyuu and Balthus' The Street. Uk ak yuck.)
By contrast, 100 Demons has no menace at all. I think it's because the human characters are so real-world grounded-- not idealized at all, most of them low-key neurotic or single-minded demented in a very familiar way. So though it can have horror at times (swollen bellied Things, walking dead, dolls) the only time it approaches menace for me is in those stories where something is just ever so slightly off: people who constantly forget things they should have remembered, characters who are a bit too insistent that Ritsu or whoever come visit, relatives who ought to be there but aren't. (The woman who keeps getting calls from the brother she doesn't have, the house where the telephone cord disappears into the floor and the repairman can't make sense of it, the house with too many flies inside.) Where the ordinary world suddenly feels indefinably wrong, the way it can when you travel and things you take for granted aren't the same any more.
The latest volume doesn't do that either. It deals, interestingly, with the fall-out of last volume's events and devotes itself to a large extent to character development. That the character being developed is Aoarashi is a plus, because for a long time he risked falling into the stereotyped manga 'gluttonous character ha-ha-ha.' Now one gets hints of what all these years living in a human body may have done to him. Hints, of course; this is a series that takes its time. (Too much time, sometimes; I wish she'd get *on* with the events of Kagyu's backstory; I don't know that we've got to the engagement yet, even.)