When a young man with the ability to see spirits encounters a strange boy in a mask and old-fashioned garb, he quickly finds himself forced on a journey through the Netherworld – one which teaches him to reevaluate his gifts. From there, his life becomes increasingly interwoven with events of the Netherworld in this darkly humorous re-imagining of the Buddhist afterlife.
Upon death, all spirits must first pass through the Netherworld before continuing to rebirth in a new life. There, King Yama sits before a high table, assigning penances that must be fulfilled before rebirth is attained. The living are forbidden from visiting the Netherworld unless they possess a special document called a Netherwarrant.
This graphic novel features a protagonist born with the ability to see spirits, but who views this gift as nothing less than a curse. Late one night the young man encounters an unusual boy wearing a mask and dressed in ancient garb who claims he is Black Impermanence, assistant to King Yama. Black Impermanence tells the young man he must use his gift of “the sight” to help people, and then, to help him realize the importance of his gift, gives him a folded blank sheet of paper – a Netherwarrant. Within moments, the young man crosses over to the Netherworld.
After returning from the land of the dead, the young man is indeed changed. Some time later, he and Black Impermanence are reunited once more. This time Black Impermanence has a special mission: to locate the missing King Yama. His only clue is that King Yama is located in a mysterious place on an island in the East. Thus, he and his counterpart White Impermanence have been investigating various unusual phenomena in Taiwan, but so far these strange occurrences are mostly the results of human ignorance, greed, and brutishness, and have nothing to do with the missing King Yama.
Artist Yuzu excels at depicting uncanny creatures and the expressions of terror and fright that they inevitably inspire in mere mortals. In Netherwarrant, she applies her personal style to elements of Buddhist belief to create a darkly humorous and immersive vision of the afterlife. The story avoids black and white approaches to morality, instead constructing a plot that reveals the complexity of human character, and will appeal to readers who love tales of adventure and the supernatural.