It's time to take a look at some old-school supernatural shoujo short stories from the creator of Basara.
WILD COM. (Chounouryoko Roudoutai Wild Com), by Yumi Tamura. First published in 1999 and first published in North America in 2004.
In "Wild Com," a young woman discovers a secret gang of elemental espers who use their powers to save others and comes to terms with her own fire-based powers. In "The Beasts of June," an assassin and a kept woman come together, only to be torn apart by the man who connects their short, sad lives. In "The Eye of the Needle," an up-and-coming actor has his life destroyed by his callousness towards others.
If you're coming into Wild Com. expecting anything like the sweeping epic action of Basara, you're bound to be disappointed. The title story comes the closest to this, but most of the stories here are dark, moody, and largely internalized.
You'd think that the title story would be more action driven, what with the squad of life-saving psychics and whatnot. Yet that part of the story ends up playing second fiddle to the emotional arc of its heroine, Michiru Ozeki. She's resentful and fearful of her powers because she believed they caused a bully's house to burn down, and she fights tooth and nail against Wild Com's attempts to make her use them. There is action in the form of rescue missions in the midst of a landslide and a forest fire, but what drives the story forward is Michiru's need to come to terms with her past. I guess there's also something of a romantic subplot between Michiru and an antagonistic water-bender, but it's never fully resolved and there's no real sense of affection or passion behind their fighting.
The sad thing is that's about as good and positive as things get in this book. It's all downward from here, as the stories get a lot messier on a narrative and emotional level. Nowhere is this more apparent than in "The Beasts of June." At time it feels almost impressionistic, as these two sad, damaged young people cross seemingly by chance, love strongly, and burn out quickly. The two are frequently compared to dragonflies, emerging from their repressive depressions as dragonflies nymphs emerge from the water and serving a metaphorical snakes as they do in myth. The problem is that Tamura loses herself so much in the emotions of her main cast that story details get a bit vague and hard to follow.
At least it ends on a comparatively stronger note with "The Eye of the Needle." It's technically a horror story, but it wisely lets the horror elements creep slowly into what seems like a romantic tragedy. It's only roughly halfway through that Uiko's selfish abandonment of his high-school sweetheart takes on a dark, suffocating tone that only grows as it goes on. The twist is somewhat obvious in retrospect, but damn if isn't satisfying to watch this asshole get his comeuppance for being an oblivious, callous asshole to everyone who crossed his path. After all, it wouldn't be shoujo horror if it wasn't ultimately a morality tale.
Nearly a decade separates Wild Com. from Basara, but artistically Tamura hadn't changed in the slightest. That's a bit of a problem considering her art style here is still very much stuck in the 80s. That means Dorito chins everywhere, eyes big enough to drown in, long and frequently poofy hair, and occasionally ridiculous fashion (particularly on the men). While this wouldn't have been completely out of place at the beginning of the 90s, it was positively archaic by the time this was released in 1999. The page composition is perfectly fine, but at times it can get a bit cluttered (which isn't helped by her sometimes chaotic use of screentone and texture). Still, it has moments of beauty. It's just a matter of whether the reader can get past her character style or not.
Wild Com. is a moody but uneven trio of stories that do at least manage to demonstrate that Yumi Tamura was capable of more than just fantasy stories. It's interesting, but not quite strong enough to be worth hunting down.
This book was published by Viz. It is currently out of print