Manga Friday: Does Three Times #2 Equal Six?
This time I’ll be reviewing the second volumes of three series that I covered the first time around – so I should know what’s going on. But, with manga, that can be a dangerous assumption…
Kieli, Vol. 2
Story By Yukako Kabei; art by Shiori Teshirogi
Yen Press, October 2008, $10.99
I reviewed the first volume of Kieli back in April: this is the one set on a far-future colony world, about a ghost-seeing orphan girl and the brooding immortal soldier she met. This is actually the end of this particular story: Kieli was originally a series of novels (by Kabei), and these two volumes adapt the first one, The Dead Sleep in the Wilderness.
(Is every moderately successful Japanese story re-merchandised within an inch of its life? Just the other night, I was watching the movie Train Man, which was itself based on a novel and had also been translated into a manga – and probably a kelp-based snack food and a line of men’s underwear, for all I know.)
I’d though Kieli would be a long, episodic story, in which she and Harvey (the undying, tormented soldier I mentioned above) travel around this world, always one step ahead of the fiendish Church Soldiers (bent on putting Harvey into his final rest and taking for themselves the high-tech stone that he has in place of a heart), putting unquiet ghosts to rest in one town after another. Well, that’s partly true – I expect elements of that plot turn up in later novels – but the series has the structure of novels rather than that of manga episodes, which means larger plot arcs with more going on in each “episode.”
And these two volumes then form one large episode, focused on Kieli and Harvey’s relationship (which is about what you’d expect, eventually) and on their journey to lay the “Corporal,” a ghost living in a radio, by returning to the site of his death. (Which is, for maximum emotional tension, the site of a massacre by Harvey and his fellow deathless super-soldiers in the great unnamed Backstory War.
(But don’t worry: there is a fiendish leader of the Church Soldiers in this book, who Harvey must battle in the end. There has to be something familiar, after all.)
Kieli, probably because of that origin, was more of a story and less of a string of events than I expected, and came to a satisfying ending – which I haven’t seen much of in my manga reading, so far. A story that’s done in two volumes is rare in manga – at least the ones translated and reprinted for American audiences – so it’s nice to find one unexpectedly, particular one that works so well.
Croquis Pop, Vol. 2
Story by KwangHyun Seo; art by JinHo Ko
Yen Press, October 2008, $10.99
Croquis Pop – I reviewed the first book in June – is the one about a Korean high school student (Da-Il) working as the newest assistant to manwha-ga Ho Go, despite his utter lack of artistic ability and because he’s secretly a Croquer, a magical dude who can make his drawings come to life and who inevitably spends a lot of time in otherworldly “dead zones” fighting “grudges” with the help of his friendly ghost sidekick/mentor, Mu-Huk (who bears a suspicious resemblance to Ho Go).
In this second volume, Ho Go’s former protégé Ga-In – who was, and still is, both a fabulous artist and a smartass who avoids all responsibility – comes back to work for Ho Go for a while, for no stated in-story reason. He quickly bunks with Da-Il, and will probably, in the course of things, actually teach him some artistic technique.
But most of this book is taken up with a long – and not done by the end of the book – sequence in a dead zone, in which Da-Il learns some of Ga-In’s past, and Mu-Huk has a high-powered battle with Pietro Van Judas, who came out of da Vinci’s The Last Supper. There’s a whole lot of yelling in both sub-plot, and much of it concerns the value of art in general and comics in particular.
(Oh, and there’s also a few enigmatic scenes of what I think will be the major real-world villain of the story, but they’re still teasers at this point.)
Croquis Pop is still silly, loud, and unabashedly in love with itself as a comic (and with comics in general). The dialogue is frequently goofy – “You hurt my co-worker!” roars Mu-Huk at one point – and the working of the supernatural stuff is still pretty murky. But it has a lot of energy, and its heart is definitely in the right place.
Shoulder-A-Coffin Kuro, Vol. 2
By Satoko Kiyuduki
Yen Press, October 2008, $10.99
The first volume of Shoulder-A-Coffin Kuro was one of the many manga that have baffled me in the year I’ve been reviewing them – it was back in May, as I recall – but this second volume goes a long way to answering the questions I had the first time around.
I found it much easier to physically read Kuro this time around – it’s still in 4-koma style (four panels, not unlike a newspaper comic strip, but arranged vertically), and still has several color pages to start each section, many of which are in a hybrid of 4-koma and the more familiar manga layout, but my eyes got used to it much more quickly. And Kiyuduki does begin to answer some of the many riddles this time out.
We get some extensive flashback scenes, and see exactly how Kuro got her coffin. It’s still not entirely clear why she’s carrying it, but it’s much clearer. And we also learn that both Kuro and her bat-friend Sen were cursed by a witch, and are traveling to find someone (probably that same witch) who can lift their curses. Sen’s curse was to be turned into a swarm of a thousand bats (though, still, there only seems to be one that talks). Kuro’s curse isn’t as clear, though it’s implied that she was turned into her present form – from what, we don’t know.
All of the secondary characters from the first book make reappearances – and are all neatly identified up front, as well. And we meet several more, if not that mysterious witch whose curses started the whole plot in motion.
Shoulder-A-Coffin Kuro makes a lot more sense now than it did after the first book, and I have to admit that I’m now looking forward to the third volume – I want to know what Kuro’s curse is, exactly, and how she’ll manage to get out of it.
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly twenty 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.
Publishers who would like their books to be reviewed at ComicMix should contact ComicMix through the usual channels or email Andrew Wheeler directly at acwheele (at) optonline (dot) net.