Since fall is rapidly approaching, I’ve been in the mood for spooky stuff. Give me the spook! Like many people, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, so I’ve been itching to immerse myself in weird and unsettling shit. I don’t really like straight up horror for the most part, but creepy things are totally up my alley.
Enter Match Shoujo (燐寸少女), or Match Girl. I picked up the first two volumes for superficial reasons (the art, duh), but became totally blown away by the stories inside. (Mild spoilers ahead!)
Each chapter is a self-contained episode with a persistent element that ties them all together: Rin, a girl who sells matches to those who want their wildest delusions to come true. The person need only to make a wish while the match is lit, and their delusion will manifest itself into reality with the help of invisible spirits.
In true Twilight Zone fashion, each character handles this power differently and their stories end in a twist that make poignant statements about human behavior.
The nature of Rin’s existence is intriguing in that she seems to genuinely want people to go on these self-discoveries–to the point of making cryptic statements during inevitable tipping points–yet watches from afar as her customers destroy themselves.
In one case, Rin uses white chocolate as an allegory to success that isn’t truly deserved–the point being that white chocolate isn’t actually considered real chocolate since it doesn’t contain any bitter cacao. How poetic.
Many of the characters use the matches to boost themselves up instead of doing any hard work, which leaves them feeling unfulfilled despite their success. Their downfall occurs when they desperately try to cling to the high of public adulation.
While many of the stories show a glimpse of people getting their just desserts, other tales hit me hard. One story of a young couple going on a date at Tokyo Tower left me in tears (I’m okay with being a perpetual mess).
As the young couple walk flight after flight of stairs, it becomes apparent that the man never wants the date to end. The woman, on the other hand, is ready to head back and call it a night. With the man no longer able to keep the charade going, the story cuts to a hospital room where an old man sits by his wife in a hospital bed. He had been using the matches in an attempt to relive their youthful days because he could not bear for their time together to end. SOB.
Aside from Rin, other characters make an appearance towards the end of volume 1. My favorite is Rin’s blobby helper, Kurage (“jellyfish”), who as a human intruded into Rin’s store (located in Akihabara, obvs) on her day off. Despite being a happy-go-lucky guy, his entire life was wrought with poor luck as he was met with perpetual pitfalls.
Without spoiling the events that led to his transformation, needless to say he is no longer human. Rin takes pity on the talking blob and decides to allow him to live in her store. Sidekick acquired.
Two more characters that make an occasional appearance later on are Chim and her mysterious companion Soipun. Chim is in the business of candles, and the person who burns them has their true heart’s desires granted.
The tension between Chim and Rin presents itself as a rivalry: whereas Rin’s clients can have multiple delusions granted in the lifespan of a match flame, Chim’s long-burning candles allow for a person to explore what they truly want out of life. Both accuse the other of doing more harm than good, but of course both wreak havoc wherever they go.
In one story, we see a rare successful case in which a girl nixes the matches and instead uses sheer perseverance to become an idol. However, after receiving a candle from Chim, she lights it before sleeping to see what her true heart’s desires are. The end result is a coma, which according to Chim was her exhausted body’s true desires. In her dream, she will never have to worry about fading into obscurity. Quelle tragique.
The art style in Match Shoujo dances on the line between cute and creepy. Adorable fairies and comical-looking demons punctuate some truly disturbing scenes. I’m all for it. Both mood-setting scenes and action scenes are crazy stylish and dynamic.
Despite some stories feeling like filler episodes (in one case Rin attempts to give a fish some matches, only to realize matches don’t work underwater), I am eager to get more Match Shoujo into my life. Sadly, the second volume was only just recently released, which means I have to wait for the next publication like a chump.