Manga Friday: Two Yen, Joe!
This week’s manga delivery brought two more books from mighty Yen Press, and they are…
Kieli, Vol. 1
Story by Yukako Kabei; Art by Shiori Teshirogi
Yen Press, 2008, $10.99
Some books, like this one, just have too much backstory for their own good, but let me roll up my sleeves and see if I can get it all clear: sometime in the future, mankind expanded to at least one other world, the planet Kieli is set on. (According to at least one character in this book, though, God decided not to travel, and so this unnamed world is godless.)
Anyway, about 80 years ago, there was a big war on this planet over fossil fuels – the two sides aren’t named, by the way – which seems to have gone global and gotten particularly nasty. Towards the end of the war, one side (or maybe both) created nearly indestructible warriors, called “the undying” from dead soldiers. The Undying had their hearts replaced with stones, and so stopped aging, could take ridiculous amounts of damage, and healed nearly any hurt in time.
After the war – we don’t know who won, or any real information about the politics or government of this world – the Undying were hunted down, mostly by “the Church,” and are now considered a legend.
Now, a teenager named Kieli – the one who thinks God got too tired to get to this planet and went back home to Earth instead – is going to boarding school, where her only friend is her dead roommate. (The roommate was dead long before she got there; Kieli can see ghosts.) She runs into a young man, Harvey, who can also see ghosts, and soon learns that he’s not so young, after all – he’s one of the undying.
He doesn’t want to have anything to do with her – he’s a brooding loner, forever wandering, forever alone, outside of all regular human society. (Well, I shouldn’t overdo it; he does have one friend, the ghost of a corporal who lives in a radio.) Kieli, on the other hand, is…well, she’s the manga version of a 14-year-old girl. She’s not as bubbly as some, but she’s way too bubbly for Harvey.
But, by the iron laws of manga, they have to work together to help out the various ghosts they find, to save the living from nasty ghosts and to help friendlier ghosts move on. In this first volume, there are three stories, including the story of a ghost train-conductor and the requisite scary clown. There are a lot of generic elements to Kieli, but it all comes together well, and Kieli herself does have a distinctive personality.
Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning, Vol. 3
Story by Kyo Shirodaira; Art by Eita Mizuno
Yen Press, 2008, $10.99
I came in on Spiral with the second book – which I reviewed here back in December – and that was an odd but fairly straightforward mystery series, with a teenage hero because all of these manga seem to have teenage heroes. He’s trying to track down the mysterious “Blade Children,” who have been indoctrinated or changed somehow (they’re all missing a rib, for one thing) and set out to commit murder and havok.
With the third volume, though, the level of angst ramps up substantially; our hero Ayumu (whom nearly everyone calls “little brother,” in reference to his better-at-everything brother who disappeared mysteriously some years ago) , who was so competent in the previous book, now wallows in his misery.
He can’t do anything, he’s no good at anything – whine, whine, whine. Given how amazingly competent he was before, this is hard to swallow. Sure, he’s modest. OK, he doesn’t entirely believe in himself. But get a grip, dude! You’re in high school and have already solved several bizarre, convoluted cases for the police, so the poor-me act is really out of place.
So most of this volume is taken up with talk. Far too much talk, from all of the characters from the second book, and some more. Ayumu in particular spends pages upon pages talking about his “heart,” which bored this reader. The tricky instant-death puzzle-traps are fewer and less exciting in this volume, as well.
Looking back, I see the overall plot of Spiral mystified me during the second volume, and it’s still confusing me now. It’s not at all clear what the Blade Children want, or even the vaguest sense of what they might be up to. Their killings and machinations seem to be entirely focused on keeping themselves secret – they’re still murderous, but not in service of anything in particular that I can see.
And I could really do with less “talking about the relationship.” I hope Spiral gets nastier and sneakier in future volumes; this one is a disappointment.
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly 20 years, with a long stint as a Senior Editor at the Science Fiction Book Club and a current position at John Wiley & Sons. He’s been reading comics for longer than he cares to mention, and maintains a personal, mostly book-oriented blog at antickmusings.blogspot.com.
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