Horror has a reputation, deserved or not, for relying too much on worn-out old tropes. As much as I want any horror story I start reading to be fresh and unique, I don’t typically go in with high expectations. Based on the cover art and title, I assumed Can You Just Die, My Darling? would either be a splattery torture porn tale or a yandere romance. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was neither.
Our main character, second year high schooler Taku Kamishiro, is kind of a quiet guy, and a bit of a clean freak. He’s thoroughly in love with his childhood friend, Mika Hanazono. She’s beautiful, popular, and a bit of a prankster. Even though it’s pretty clear Mika already knows how he feels, Taku decides he’s finally going to confess to her for real and asks her to meet him on the roof of their school’s unused wing the next day.
At home that evening, stressing over what he’s actually going to say to Mika, Taku hears a commotion outside. A man appears to be harassing a woman in the street. As Taku tries to intervene, the harasser yells at him to stay away for his own good, or else he’ll infect Taku “with these feelings.”
When Taku goes to school the next day, he finds that while the rational part of his brain knows how much he loves Mika, he’s overcome with the urge to murder her. And when he tries to tell her he loves her, he involuntarily tells her that he hates her and wants to kill her instead. But it’s not all bad – with the murderous impulses comes super strength, an incredible reaction time, near invulnerability, and fantasies that verge on precognition, as long as those fantasies also include Taku committing some atrocity.
Can You Just Die, My Darling? is tough to classify. While it is outrageously violent, it’s hardly the exploitative torture porn I expected it to be. With it’s contagious violent urges and super strength, it reminded me a bit of both zombie fiction and some superhero stories, although it is decidedly neither of those.
Taku is hardly a superhero. He spends most of the volume trying not to do anything, because all he wants to do is kill. And when he finally does try to take advantage of his powers for justice, any good he might have done is rendered pointless by a surreal, gory twist ending that had my jaw bouncing off the floor. I laughed out loud, not because it was bad, but because i just couldn’t imagine where the story could possibly be heading after that.
Can You Just Die, My Darling? manages to be absurd enough to dodge the pitfalls of the genres it borrows from without devolving into complete silliness. It’s campy without accidentally becoming parody, which is a very fine line to try to walk.
The Not as Good
For a book that revels in splatter as much as this one does, the gory scenes, and the art in general, aren’t much to look at. There are a few panels that make interesting use of shading, but mostly it’s just north of functional. The story’s character designs are unremarkable, and the character writing lacks detail, reducing even the main characters to basic archetypes – and not even ones that work well together. The relationship between Taku and Mika is totally unbelievable. Given how cruel Mika is to him, I can’t imagine Taku staying friends with her as a kid long enough to fall in love. And the only two side characters that are of any importance are pretty much blank slates.
The book also has a problem with quality control. Page 23 is partially cut off on the right side, including part of a speech bubble. You can figure out what the dialogue is, but the page should not have made it to publication like that. It is only that one page though, and I didn’t notice any other mistakes like that.
You wouldn’t read Can You Just Die, My Darling? for deep characterization though. If you’re looking for endlessly entertaining mental junk food, this book delivers in spades. Despite its issues, I’d still recommend this book if you’re a fan of bloody, late-night B-movies. If nothing else, I was so shocked by the ending that I immediately bought the next volume, and any book that can make me do that gets a thumbs up from me.