Dark Gathering focuses on a young man who is an unwilling magnet for the supernatural.

Dark Gathering Volume One
Written by: Kenichi Kondo
Publisher: Shueisha Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: May 16, 2023

Volume One introduces the reader to Keitaro, a young man who had a run-in with a nasty spirit while he was in middle school. A good friend of his was dragged into it, and they were both cursed. Keitaro spent two years refusing to leave his room so no one else would get hurt. At the beginning of the story, he has spent the past year trying to reenter society, and managed to catch up academically with his peers. Keitaro, along with his friend, Eiko (who was one the people in his life who helped him find the strength to rejoin society), are just entering university.

After spending two years as a shut-in, though, Keitaro has gotten pretty bad at interacting with other people. Eiko recommends a part-time job as a tutor to help Keitaro practice these interactions, and it turns out he’s assigned to work with Eiko’s younger cousin, Yayoi. Yayoi is a prodigy, so I guess she’s being tutored to do well on entrance exams for schools with higher entrance requirements. When Keitaro sees her for the first time, Yayoi obviously looks different from. The most unusual feature about her are the double pupils that she has in each of her eyes.

It turns out that Yayoi can see spirits and she has an interest in the supernatural. Eiko and Yayoi drag Keitaro, who is trying to distance himself from the supernatural, along on a trip to a haunted phone booth. Through this adventure, it’s established that Yayoi hunts down dangerous spirits because she’s trying to find the one who took her mother when her parents were killed in an accident.

This volume also establishes that Keitaro’s grandmother is the head of a shrine and performs exorcisms on Keitaro. His grandmother has been teaching Keitaro how to conquer his condition and she helped him to see there was the possibility that he could avoid involving others in his supernatural mishaps. When Eiko and Yayoi accompany Keitaro to the shrine, Keitaro’s grandmother instantly dislikes Yayoi after learning she was the one who was destroying jizo. During this chapter, while Keitaro and his grandmother are both weakened from the exorcism, it’s up to Yayoi to take down a spirit that tries to take over Keitaro. While his grandmother is thankful to Yayoi for saving her grandson, she doesn’’t want Yayoi to come back to the temple.

With something Yayoi asks of Keitaro at the end of the second chapter, he’s really not sure if he can truly trust her or wants to be around her. In the third chapter, Yayoi learns about Keitaro’s curse and says she knows how to break it. She tries to do something dangerous in order to get what she needs for breaking the curse, but it’s up to Keitaro to save her. With what he learns from talking to her afterward, Keitaro realizes that Yayoi’s been trying to be a friend to him, even though what she was doing was coming across as rather creepy.

After seeing how Volume One ends, it seems safe to say that this volume’s purpose is to set up the characters and the overarching story of the series. From what we see at the end, it appears that going forward, Keitaro and Yayoi will be working together to trap spirits. For Keitaro, his motivation is to eliminate the one that cursed him and his friend back in middle school. For Yayoi, her goal is to find the spirit who took her mother. I should point out that Keitaro doesn’t reveal the identity of the friend who was cursed with him back in middle school until the final page of the volume, but I had already guessed his friend’s identity well before this reveal.

When I finished reading Dark Gathering, I couldn’t help but feel that the author was trying to create something like Bleach. However, since one of the main characters is an elementary school student, it’s harder to capture that kind of vibe. In the author’s note, Kondo admits that he’s never written scary stories before and has only read them. So in that sense, you have to look at Dark Gathering as an author’s attempt at trying to write in a style they’ve never written in before. It’s not bad at all for what it is, but I’m not sure it’s quite as scary as it could be. But then again, I’m reading Dark Gathering after immersing myself in the works of Junji Ito for the past couple of years, so perhaps this caused me to set the bar higher than I used to.

When it comes to the art, Kondo did a good job of designing Yayoi in a way where she stands out. With this character design, you can believe that there’s something not quite normal about her. She definitely stands out in comparison to Keitaro and Eiko.

If you’re a fan of supernatural manga, you might find enjoyment in Dark Gathering Volume One. If you’re more of a fan of horror, though, you may find that this series isn’t as strong in the horror vein as it is in the supernatural.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media