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Category: Freaks Volume 1    by Gokurakuin Sakurako order for
by Gokurakuin Sakurako
Order:  USA  Can
Dr. Master, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

The Investigators of Paranormal Phenomena (IPP)) deal mostly with freaks; supernatural ghoulish creatures that prey on humans. Sometimes they are purposely called into existence while at others they just appear out of nowhere to pester and agitate humans. How do you defeat a freak? It helps to have a stand on your side; these natural enemies of freaks utterly delight in consuming the pesky little nuisances. The IPP employs Asagi, a stand who presents a youthful appearance yet is much older than his co-workers. Actually, Asagi's natural form is anything but human but he likes to keep a low profile when he's not dining on freaks.

This graphic novel delivers a great collection of titillating and high charged stories, which provide interesting situations for the four IPP employees. They investigate strange accidents at a big corporation, determine what is happening to beautiful young maids of an eccentric recluse, and figure out who keeps killing teachers at a local school. I won't even mention the case of dead call girls. The stories manage to be fun but engaging, and the mysterious Asagi compels readers as they gain little pieces of information about who and what he is.

The art, which helps further define Asagi, remains consistent through the entire series. Though Asagi presents a male identity, there is a certain ambiguity to his appearance, gestures, and stature. Though gender ambiguity runs strong in manga, its emphasis with Asagi compared to another investigator, Nanami, works to show Asagi's isolation and difference. One fault (often occurring in manga) can be found in the dialogue balloons. At times, it can be a mystery onto itself who is saying what on a particular page or within a panel.

As a bonus feature, Sakurako includes his early manifestations of what would ultimately become this series. In this origin story, readers discover just how the Investigators of Paranormal Phenomena came to be. Adult fans of Buffy and others who like a little sexual tension with their magical infestations will rejoice in Category: Freaks. This first collection of stories keeps a good pace while also being playful and frisky with its readers.

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