Yami no Matsuei article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 5, No. 10, September 2002
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.
Ever hear that song with the chorus "The girls they go crazy for a sharp dressed man"? Yoko Matsushita uses this idea to her advantage in the supernatural action-thriller Yami no Matsuei (Descendants of Darkness). The charming lead's black suit and trench coat not only make him look good but are appropriate attire, for Tsuzuki is a Shinigami, or God of Death, responsible for taking the lives of those who have been scheduled to die but have yet to pass on.
Ayako Sugizawa, age 17, high school student, healthy parents, no siblings. This is Tsuzuki's latest case. His boss doesn't care how he does it so long as he brings back her soul. To help Tsuzuki is a new partner. Young Asuka has just transferred from another department. From the moment Asuka sees a picture of Ayako, Tsuzuki suspects something's up. Later, when Ayako embraces Asuka as her dead cousin Masaki, Tsuzuki follows his instincts and investigates his partner.
It turns out Asuka is Ayako's dead cousin who gave his life saving her from drowning. Problem is, she feels so guilty about his death, she keeps trying to commit suicide. Determined to protect her, Asuka changed his records and became a Shinigami, who have the privilege of moving between the lands of the living and the dead. At odds with Tsuzuki's assignment, the two have a spectacular supernatural fight. In the end, Tsuzuki uses his bureaucratic knowhow to resolve the situation to everyone's satisfaction.
This first case serves mainly as an introduction to the series. In Tsuzuki's next case, he has a new young partner. Unlike Asuka, Hisoka has a chip on his shoulder, one which can't be explained merely because he's a sensitive psychic. Their first case involves what seems to be a vampire in Nagasaki. During the course of the investigation, Tsuzuki meets a strange doctor named Muraki. Eventually they learn Muraki is the one pulling the strings of the suspect. Why would a doctor be involved with a supernatural killer? What happened to Hisoka to make him so touchy? How does a kind-hearted guy like Tsuzuki get stuck with such a horrible, grim job for 70 years? The answers to these and other engrossing questions are interwoven into Tsuzuki and Hisoka's touching, tragic cases.
Matsushita balances off all the drama with amusing portrayals of the bureaucracy of the dead. Just like a regular job, there are odd coworkers, budgets to maintain, paperwork and procedures to follow. Including these elements not only makes Descendants of Darkness more interesting, it also adds more depth to the story.
Like many lengthy manga turned into short TV shows, the 13-episode anime cuts back on side stories and the development of minor characters, however, the show does not sacrifice the humor for the sake of drama, as often happens in such cases. Plus, the anime is gorgeous and doesn't leave you with an unsatisfying ending like some short shows. Eventually, Central Park Media will be releasing the show in the U.S. on DVD.
Currently at eleven volumes and still hitting the top of manga sales charts, this series is definitely not for kids. Aside from the violence, gore and constant theme of death, there's also an undercurrent of homosexuality. If these qualities don't bother you and you like a story full of mystery, emotion and supernatural action, give Descendants of Darkness a try. Death looks better in a trench coat.