The first volume (at least in Germany) was released back in 2006. 15 volumes in total. I kept up till #6, then there was that time where I had to stop collecting manga entirely (this went on for a few years where I had neither the money, nor the space to continue collecting…), so I lost track for a pretty long time.
It also didn’t help that prices for the ongoing volumes kept rising. The series started with 6,50€ (~$9) and ended with 9,50€ (~$13). To make things worse, a few volumes in the middle are completely sold out and are hard to find, even on the internet.
Long story short, I managed to get the missing ones and read through them just yesterday (#7-#15 in a row). Potential spoilers will be marked as such:
First of all, I really like the art style. It’s realistic, it’s clean. I tend to like styles that leave a lot of white on the page with crisp linework and Yamamoto has the ability to convey a lot of story and emotions through his drawings alone without adding a flood of text to it. What needs explanation gets an explanation, the rest is up to your imagination and interpretation.
The whole story starts with our main character Nakoshi Susumu who’s basically living in his car, which is parked between a luxury hotel and a park inhabited by homeless people. We’re left clueless of how he ended up like that (yes, we’ll get answers to that later in the story). One day, this strange guy, Ito Manabu, shows up and offers Nakoshi, well, let’s say, a job?
Ito claims to be interested in human behaviour and psychology and offers Nakoshi a lot of money. In return he wants to drill a hole in his skull and basically see what happens (Trepanning was used as a method, for example, in medieval times to ‘heal’ mental diseases. People thought the cause of those diseases were demons or ghosts in the head of the person, so they drilled holes into the skull to drive the demons/ghosts out). He eventually agrees to this plan, convinced that a little hole in his skull won’t change anything, but of course it does, otherwise, what would be the point of this manga.
By covering his right eye he begins to see, what he ends up calling, ‘homunculi’ in certain people. The appearance of these people change. Some seem to suddenly be made of sand, strange symbols, some get mecha-arms. Things like that. Strangely fascinated by his shift in conception he starts to try and find out what it exactly is what he’s seeing.
Everything from this point on is probably a spoiler, so if you want to read the manga I’ll recommend you to stop around here. You’ve been warned:
I’ve read a few other reviews and we’re all of the same oppinion that in the middle of the series there’s a huge turn in the story. It switches from “Nakoshi trying to find out what he’s seeing” to “Nakoshi trying to find himself”, as he realizes that every homunculi he sees is to some extend also a part of himself. I think there’s a whole volume dedicated to analyzing Ito’s homunculus.
A lot of readers started to lose interest at that story-twist. I didn’t really mind because there was a huge time-gap between the first and the second half (we remember, I was horribly horribly broke for a few years). As to the ending… It’s one of those endings that just make me feel slightly uncomfortable. There’s no real conclusion, half of it is left up to your interpretaion. I personally don’t really like this sort of ending but with homunculus it’s strangely befitting.
If I had to give my 2 cents about it, I’m pretty sure that Nakoshi ended up in between enlightment and madness. On the one hand, he clearly is capable of looking into people’s souls (if you want to call it ‘souls’) and give them proper advice and help but on the other hand, you’d have to be kinda insane to drill holes into other people’s heads, probably leading to a lot of deaths, trying to find someone who sees himself as he sees others (search for a soulmate?). Ito finds him in the end and it seems he took some police officers with him and it seems that Nakoshi gets arrested for killing all these people (we only know of one lady he killed for certain..kinda..)
That’s basically it. I really liked it, I didn’t mind the story turn-around and I also liked the ending (I don’t even know what an alternative ending could have been like..). It’s deep, it’s disturbing at times (I’ll just leave ‘sex-scene in the last volume’ here), it’s complex. If you like these kind of highly psychological adult manga, Homunculus will most likely be for you.
Let me know what you think!
(I know, I did not edit my about site and this was not about my mascot either but oh well… I’ll do that in the near future. I promise)