I’m fascinated by Japanese horror and the supernatural, in that I find it interesting while it completely wigs me out at the same time. There’s such a vast difference in the cultural mores between the East and West concerning death or the Fair Folk or Things Which Mankind Is Not Meant to Know. Missing is a decent light novel, and it’s got a very creepy story at the core. While the characters do fit into different stereotypes—the ice queen, the stupid best friend, the tall and quiet guys—they still manage to feel like defined characters in their own right. I definitely got the sense that any one of these characters would be willing to risk their lives for each other. Out of the five, the ones who would probably need more development overall were Ryoko and Utsume. I liked Ryoko, she fits very well into the cute girl role, but she never really gets beyond that characterization. I feel like there’s more to her that we just haven’t seen yet. Utsume’s mysterious past—specifically, his being spirited away by kami-kakushi as a little boy and then later at the start of the novel—is at the center of the plot. And while it’d be easy to say that we don’t get to see much of him, because he disappears for a good chunk of the novel, he really doesn’t do much in what we do see of him or in flashbacks. All Utsume does whenever he’s onscreen is act dark and mysterious and pontificate philosophically. On the other hand, the other three members of the Literature Club—Takemi, Aki and Toshiya—feel more developed. We get more of their backstories, and they actually grow a little throughout the story. However, I’d have to say that the antagonist, Ayame, was my favorite. Again, she does fall into a stereotype role (tragic ghost figure), but her actions toward Utsume feel more tragic. There’s a part when Ryoko notices the look on Ayame’s face and mentions that you can’t help but feel sorry for her. Yet, whenever she has to be creepy, good Lord, is she creepy. There are two major problems that I had with the book as a whole. For one thing, minor characters are introduced with a lot of build-up and explanation about what they do, but don’t contribute further to the plot after their role is finished. I can understand this in the case of Kijou (although I have my theories on that), but Jinno and Yomiko disappear after talking with Takemi and Toshiya.My second problem is the translation. For the record, I’ve only read the English translation, as I don’t have the original and I can’t read Japanese writing to begin with. (I kinda know the sentence structure, but even then it’s extremely loose.) That said, the translation doesn’t really flow well. The prose is choppy and sounds weird at times, and there’s odd bits of dialogue that doesn’t fit with many of the characters. It’s not written well, and really takes away from a lot of the book—I’ve read other translated works, and the prose and dialogue actually flows a lot better. I’m not sure if this was fixed in later volumes—it’s a thirteen-book series; however, with Tokyopop’s current status, I doubt that any of the other volumes made it to print. Overall, it’s a decent read, and I am interested in reading more. Unfortunately, only volume 2 ever made it stateside, so I’m pretty much stuck with the first one. In any case, it’s a quick and effective read that manages to be interesting and scary.