Meteor Methuselah (Immortal Rain in the U.S.) is a manga series I reviewed in this blog post. Tohou Shinigami (Shinigami of the East) happens to be a 1 volume long prequel to Meteor Methuselah. Remember Machika, the quirky girl that is trying to capture Rain (aka Methuselah) in the beginning of Meteor Methuselah? Well, this prequel follows the life of her grandfather, Zol, who was known as the shinigami (grim reaper in Japanese mythology) bounty hunter. The only bounty Zol was unable to capture was the immortal Methuselah and this volume seeks to explain why that is.
What would normally have been a short story of 1 or 2 chapters, led to the creation of an entire volume because by this time, we know that when Rain is involved, things don't go as planned. We start out on a scene of Zol who executes a sneak attack on a ring of criminals and then collects the bounty. Zol takes the bodies back with him and the villagers comment that the reason he does this is because he simply enjoys killing. However, Zol takes the bodies and then buries them, giving each grave its own cross that extends toward the horizon. It's on his way to bury this new batch of bodies, that he stumbles upon Rain.
Rain was hit by a car (because he's none too smart) and he's technically dead. So Zol lugs him to the graveyard and when he's digging the hole, Rain wakes up and opens the coffin he's in, asking if he's dead. Well. Talk about an entrance. Of course, Zol has no idea Rain is the immortal Methuselah, so he decides to help the guy. While he takes Rain to grab some grub, Rain notices that there is a young waitress named Kona that seems to like Zol. Zol however, responds harshly to her and pushes her away. Rain soon finds out that Kona is a slave and that she used to work in a brothel. The baby she carries is from an unknown man and Zol cannot fathom why she wants to keep the child. But, what bothers Zol the most is that Kona doesn't stand up for herself and allows the owner of the restaurant to slap her around.
The story then progresses from here. We learn who Zol works for and the reason why he is a bounty hunter. And ultimately, we learn why Zol was unable to "capture" Methuselah. I think it goes without saying that I LOVED this prequel. The art style and the fluidity of the panels are amazing, just like in Immortal Rain and what's great is that Rain's personality really had not changed from Tohou Shinigami to the Meteor Methuselah series. And you know what this means right? He is HILARIOUS. Rain's characterization ultimately balances Zol's very well, as Zol is a pretty intense guy. By the end of the series, you also learn how Zol became Machika's grandfather, because it turns out that *SPOILER!!!* Zol is really Machika's adoptive father. However, since he was never married to her mom (who was Kona of course!) he doesn't like it when she calls him papa. So, Machika called him "grandfather" instead. Overall, I adored this manga. However, the ending is quite sad because we learn that Rain's visit at the beginning of Immortal Rain was to check up on Zol. By that time, Zol is already dead, having been targeted by jealous bounty hunters and leaves Machika on her own. But, this is also where new adventures begin :) So, if you have read the Immortal Rain series, definitely read Shinigami of the East and for those that are unsure of whether or not to commit to the longer series, picking up this volume is great introduction to the art style and writing of Ozaki Kaori.