Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro (MTNN) is a supernatural mystery manga written by Matsui Yuusei, published in Weekly Shonen Jump from 2005 to 2009. It was Yuusei's first original work and ran for a grand total of 202 chapters. It was also adapted into a 25-episode anime in 2007, but the anime radically changed the storyline and created an original ending that didn't reflect the manga. (I've personally only seen a few episodes of the anime.)

I was introduced to Matsui Yuusei's work through Assassination Classroom first, and I absolutely adored that series from beginning to end. After I finished it, the same friend who recommended it told me that the same author had an older series that I might also like. This was way back in 2015, and I've read through MTNN every few years since I read it for the first time back then. It's one of my absolute favorite pieces of niche media, and I'm amazed that it's taken me this long to talk about it on this website.

Majin Tantei Nougamu Neuro opens with Katsuragi Yako, a high-school girl, trying to cope with her father's murder. The police, unable to find the culprit, label it a cold case. However, a mysterious demon named Neuro suddenly appears before her, demanding that she accompy him and serve as his camouflage in the human world as he hunts for 'riddles' to consume. Neuro turns Yako into somewhat of an icon, a famous schoolgirl detective, while solving the murders behind the scenes and feeding off of the guilty culprits' emotions.

That in and of itself is a pretty engaging plot, but there's a lot more to this series than just the superficial summary. MTNN is a very strange manga, and if you've read Assassination Classroom before, you'll be aware of how Matsui Yuusei uses dark themes and monstrous, allegorical imagery to creatively develop characters and showcase their innermost desires. In Assassination Classroom, he uses themes of murder and bloodlust, while in MTNN, a large recurring theme is (unrealistic) BDSM imagery. Neuro is a demon with a penchant for cruel and unusual punishments, and since Yako is his assistant, a lot of these punishments befall her (though Neuro has no qualms torturing his other subordinates as well). Neuro takes great joy in devising methods of torturing the poor girl, and many of them are played for absurd, exaggerated laughs.

Something interesting happens, however, as the story and the characters develop, and that is the transition from Neuro's slapstick punishments being presented as entirely comedic to a genuinely important aspect of his partnership with Yako. It happens slowly, but the series eventually reaches a point where physical restraints and emotional 'training' are methods for Yako and Neuro to communicate candidly with each other. Like bloodlust in Assassination Classroom being praised as an allegory for hard work and desire, Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro uses exaggerated BDSM to showcase Yako and Neuro's trust in each other as partners when faced with potentially deadly threats. I think the key to this unusual symbolism's success is the fact that Yuusei makes it clear that there are no sexual or romantic undertones between Neuro and Yako at all, so he's able to use this imagery effectively without the metaphor getting muddled.

Yuusei also uses very interesting visual symbolism when it comes to the murderers. MTNN starts out as a bit of a 'villain of the week' manga, with Neuro and Yako being given a case and trying to track down the guilty party. Once they determine who the culprit is, the culprit often has a symbolic shift in their design, drawing on symbols related to their personal beliefs or crimes. They go from average, everyday people to grotesque caricatures, twisted by the way they justify their actions to themselves and the detectives who've caught them in the act. Yuusei's art may not be the best when it comes to drawing humans - there are a lot of examples of yaoi and CLAMP anatomy throughout the manga - but his artistic vision is really fascinating.

MTNN does have its fair share of humor that just hasn't aged well, for a multitude of reasons, but the overall product is really fascinating and I like it a lot. It's also very much a hit or miss manga, I think - you will either love it and stick around to the very end, or you won't mesh with the themes that Yuusei employs and/or you'll get turned away by the uncomfortable and cringe humor. Which is totally valid! It's definitely not for everyone, but I think about it a lot. I'm gearing up for what I believe is my fourth read through of the manga very soon. I last read it in October of 2020.

As the series goes on, it digs into some fascinating concepts regarding crime, identity, and self-confidence. It also has the honor of being the very first manga/anime that had a villain who legitimately terrified me and caused me panic while I was reading it. It covers quite a lot of ground over the course of its run, and I'm quite excited to visit it again - I seem to discover or absorb something new every time I read it.

I may end up adding more to this page once I re-read the manga again. It was never officially released in English, so there are some translated chapters that are... of a lower quality than others. I would really love one day to work on re-releasing some chapters, but I don't have a good enough grasp of the language to do that. T_T Oh well. Anyway, I'll end this page with some panels I screenshotted last time I read it, as well as a transparent I made of one of my favorite chapter covers!