Tobby’s Recommendation Yell: Nightfall Travelers: Leave Only Footprints – Volume 1
beta-read by ThatOtherGabby
Now I’m really tuned into some sort of paranormal investigation presentation.
Ever since childhood, the idea of things like formally printed and published collections of “true local ghost stories” and ghost investigation segments in weeknight TV feature shows often rub me the wrong way, as they feel like they just inform and scare for the sake of informing and scaring. And in hindsight, I find it weird to dub Casper “The Friendly Ghost,” as if ghosts are automatically evil. Then again, considering how they’re earthbound souls of sinners, perhaps there’s some sense in that, but still, I’m glad my parents taught me to pray for ghosts, to believe not just in their existence but also in their dignity. And by “dignity,” I mean “They should be led to God Almighty” and not “They should be treated like they’re God Almighty.”
So if I were Akane Ninamori, second year high schooler and school Newspaper Club member, and got assigned to report on rumored hauntings in our rural town because I had been ghosting on the club, I’d reluctantly take it like she did, but I’d probably write stuff that’s more sensational than the usual news while letting the rumors persist. Or I’d just whine and cute my way out of it and the club I joined because I was told to and wanted something convenient. All while further wishing for not just anti-ghost but also anti-people superpowers.
But as for what Akane actually did, she managed to achieve more than she thinks with her social skills as she reached out to the lonely Fujino Amemura, a transfer and a classmate, sitting all alone by the window in their classroom after classes. They get along quick, cutting from little Akane asking the tall Fujino to come along to the former finding sociability in the latter as they go out to investigate spooky local legends. All without superpowers.
So kicks off Tomohi’s Nightfall Travelers: Leave Only Footprints, titled in Japanese as Yuuyake Trip (literally “Evening Glow Trip”). Its first volume was published in English by Seven Seas Entertainment digitally on May 31, 2022 and in print on June 7, 2022, and when I bought a copy of this on Book Walker, I felt like it wouldn’t be enough to just have bought and read something this good on a shallow desire to up my Book Walker Club Rank some more while buying some e-books I’ve been wanting to buy there for a long time already. And I struggle to remember the last time I read, let alone liked, a “cute girls doing cute things” work. Maybe it’s because this work with a subdued tone feels more grounded to me and my solitary and introspective self, and then there’s the novelty of this damply visualized Japanese rural town to the Philippine provincial city boy that I am. My cloutchasing is definitely a factor as well. Then there’s my belief in the supernatural being a real force that can be benevolent but is still not to be trifled with.
Though it seems like this recently debuted series is a mythbusting experience so far in terms of the whole spooky legend investigations. Not that I mind, though, because what makes or breaks a paranormal investigation to me is not whether the rumored paranormal activities are actually real or not, but how much respect the investigators give to the souls entangled in those rumors.
To give you a more concrete idea about that standard of mine, I’d like to bring up the third chapter, which featured the investigation of the allegedly bloody gate at the rumored Beheading Shrine, where Akane and Fujino found out that the alleged blood was actually fruit-influenced bird poop. The story introduces the rumor as a seven-year-old one that scared a kid, with the rumor growing to scare off practically the whole neighborhood, and the chapter ends with an even braver Akane revealing her concerned curiosity for the children from back then, much to Fujino’s praise. But the weight of those seven years, especially upon the child who was at the center of it all, is both fully established and resolved in the succeeding chapter, which opens with the bait-and-switch presentation of a serious and relieved girl named Odagiri, who is revealed to be that central child after she marches into Akane and Fujino’s classroom to affectionately ruffle the shorter student reporter’s hair in wordless gratitude. Odagiri’s appearance is quick, not even explaining whether or not the girl knew that she got hit by the bird poop even before the report got published, but the quickness helps the respectfulness of the whole thing, showing us a genuine understanding about not only how freaking hard it is to live with so much attention, especially the negative sort, but also how to properly deal with such things. It’s not about notability versus obscurity, but about having enough of both. Such respectfulness makes the daunting environments the girls have to work with really worth it.
And while I do welcome the solemn fluffiness that it usually is, I also welcome those taps and whistles and pokes and tugs that remind me that life and the world isn’t all about me and these protagonist girls, these made-up folks based on reality I run away to in desperate attempts to escape from reality. In the fourth chapter, while the investigation proper at the vacant lot in Yuuhigaoka itself and its aftermath are presented as too beautiful for the usual black-and-white coloring manga body pages utilize, as if it were another world entirely, it also reminds us of our fear of the unknown when children mistake Akane and Fujino for ghosts after hearing bits of Akane and Fujino’s happy chatting past the tall grass hiding them. In the fifth chapter, a part of the volume where we readers going from start to finish should already be really into the fun of the investigations along with the duo, Fujino narrowly saves Akane from falling into an irrigation canal in Rokkotsu Pond while investigating the rumor about a ghost haunting the pond’s surface. And while the Good Night Akane-chan intermission after the sixth chapter is a good contrast to how those intermissions usually are, I find it even better to see those hints of Akane’s normal family life. And again, there’s Akane being an assigned reporter who sought a friend to bring ease to the job she feared doing a lot at first.
So while this drama king that I am may not be motivated to be some ghost story aficionado digging up provincial lots and spots, I am motivated to cherish my bros from my all-boys high school days some more. After all, they’re still bothering to put up with this guy who’s the noisiest and the most self-righteous member of our band of nerds. Also, I remembered how I initiated my first conversations with some of them. And I still have a lot more to learn and remember about them along with myself.
Which brings us to my attempt at utilizing another meaning of “recommendation” for this essay series that was focused on just relatively old and arguably complete works I like very much. By that, I mean that I’d like to say that I’d love to see clearer hints of Fujino’s family life at the very least. Perhaps a whole volume of new investigations from Fujino’s perspective would be good, too. I mean, so far, she seems more like a device for Akane’s growth than her own person, so I’d love more Fujino focus in future chapters, especially considering how Akane relieved her of her loneliness and confusion as a transfer student. And I don’t know if you’d count it as such, but witnessing us fools learning and doing our best in making sense of miracles like friendship might be my favorite sort of paranormal investigation.