Kieli, vol. 1
Story by Yukako Kabei
Art by Shiori Teshirogi
Rated OT, Older Teen, for language and violence
Yen Press, $10.99
Kieli is a manga about a girl who sees ghosts.
Well, no, but Kieli has more to it than your standard ghost manga. The characters have more depth, the action is easy to follow, and the art is very nice, which makes this a good crossover title for a shoujo reader who is looking for a taste of shonen.
Let’s talk about the setup first. We’re in some fairly modern alternate world that went through a terrible war 80 years ago. The most lethal weapons in that war were the Undying, immortal killing machines made from the corpses of the war dead. “Their hearts are made of a perpetually working power source that gives them abnormal regenerative powers,” explains one character. When the war was over, the country was taken over by a theocracy that eliminated the Undying by blasting their hearts out. Of course, they missed one—otherwise there wouldn’t be a story. His name is Harvey, and he’s pretty cute, and he carries around a radio possessed by the ghost of dead soldier who is trying to get to his final resting place.
The main character is not Harvey but Kieli, an orphaned teenager who has the power to see ghosts, Kieli doesn’t fit in at all in her Church-run boarding school. Her only friend is, in fact, a ghost. What’s more, she’s smart, smart enough to realize that the Church that is running everyone’s lives is really bogus—there is no God at the heart of it.
So, Kieli hooks up with Harvey and they go off and have some adventures. One of the least likeable aspects of this book is the Kieli-Harvey dynamic, which is typical shoujo: She’s enthusiastic and really likes him, he’s cold and diffident (but really does sort of grudgingly like her). Ho hum. Of course, Harvey is technically a reanimated corpse, which could cause some problems if they become romantically entangled down the line.
Kieli, on the other hand, is smart and introspective, and that’s what really makes this book. She thinks about things; she knows what people think of her; she argues with her best friend and then feels bad about it. Also, unlike in a lot of manga, she isn’t being pelted with ghosts all the time, so she has a bit of time to think. There’s plenty of action in Kieli, some of it quite gory, but it’s well paced and easy to follow, and there is plenty of downtime between bouts.
Shiori Teshirogi’s art is expressive and fairly clean, with perhaps a bit too much toning in places. Unlike a lot of action manga, it has fight scenes that are easy to follow. Backgrounds and establishing scenes are fairly minimal; the focus is on the characters, and Teshirogi does give them plenty of expression. I particularly like the graceful flow of the girls’ black uniforms. The paper is clean and white, if a bit coarse, so the art stands up well, although it does get just a touch muddy in the pages with a lot of solid black. There are no extras, other than an author’s note, but this book doesn’t really demand translation notes.
Overall, this first volume presents an entertaining story that’s a bit above average in every way: More depth, better characters, nicer art. It’s accessible enough for those new to action manga and complex enough for the more experienced reader, making it a good addition to any summer reading pile.
This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher.