Story: Yukako Kabei
Illustration: Shunsuke Taue
Translation/Adaptation: Sarah Alys Lindholm
What They Say
When the Corporal’s wires get crossed and his memory begins to fail, Harvey and Kieli are forced to temporarily set aside their search for Beatrix to scout for pre-War parts for their afflicted comrade. Along the way, they encounter a strange beast who knows far too much about Undyings and has taken an unsettling interest in Harvey. But it may be a far more mundane menace from Kieli’s past that threatens the couple’s continuing journey…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
I find that with each passing volume of Kieli my sense of dread is growing. This is a series that loves to wallow in bleak and disturbing imagery, obsessed with it’s own demise and mortality. It’s heavy stuff for a young adult novel. It’s also hung up on the relationships of it’s main cast, and at least some of that mess is sorted out in a satisfying manner in this volume.
Kieli and Harvey are once again on the search for the missing Beatrix, who unbeknownst to them has fallen in with the worst sort of crowd an undying could keep. The haunted couple end up back at the bar where Kieli’s mother once worked, biding their time and looking for leads when a crisis strikes. Events from the previous volumes have taken their toll on the Corporal, and the ghost in the radio suddenly has a bought of amnesia. This proves to be the catalyst for another road trip and the group hits the rails once again to find a way to fix him.
The rail trip doesn’t last particularly long, as the group finds themselves caught up in some of the more mysterious happenings to occur since the series began. There are bloody encounters with a couple of undying unlike any they’ve previously met. One of whom proves more dangerous than the other, and both Kieli and Harvey spend much of the volume out of their league when confronted with forces they don’t understand and have few ways to counterattack. To add insult to injury, the church forces are right on their tails.
This series always walks a find line between it’s fantasy and it’s science fiction. This volume comes dangerously close to creating a major plot hole about what happens to an undying when their heart becomes damaged. The rules of the science of their world seem to be fast and loose, but maybe they’re just not well understood. We’re seeing everything through Kieli and Harvey’s eyes, and neither of the two seem to understand the finer workings of their world. This is very much a series that takes the adage ‘any significantly advanced science is indistinguishable from magic’ to heart. I don’t expect the series to explain it’s world in full detail, that’s not what the story is about. Still, it would be nice to know if the author herself had this stuff figured out behind the scenes.
Beyond the supernatural action that makes up most of the story in this volume are a few great character moments. There are the bittersweet flashbacks for the characters of Mane and the Assistant, which are appropriately earnest. Kieli’s realization that even she is capable of killing and isn’t such a pure hearted soul, and Harvey’s response to her nearly sliding down that slippery slope, added some much needed depth to the two. Finally, and I repeat finally, Harvey realizing that he does indeed want to live at least long enough to keep his promise to Kieli. Even beyond that, that he should try to enjoy his moments with her rather than keeping her at arms length. He stops just short of deciding if he should try to live a normal life with her, although the thought does cross his mind.
I found the background events going on in this volume more interesting than what was happening to Kieli and Harvey. The church soldiers shifting their focus from Harvey to Kieli is a major, but understated, change for the narrative. It was hinted in the last volume that Kieli’s father was probably alive and well, and his identity is revealed in this volume. It’s not much of a surprise, but we still don’t know much about him or why he was separated from his wife. It’s just another of the unsettling circumstances that plague Kieli from the shadows.
The writing still has that clumsy, new author feel that the series hasn’t quite shaken even though we’re at the seventh of a nine volume series. It’s certainly not terrible writing, but not even the translator and adaptor can cover up some of the childishness of it all. I’m also still less than pleased with the artwork for the series, as I think the artist makes Kieli and Harvey look younger than they actually are. Despite that, the color pages come in the form of a fold out for this volume, showing the major players in a beige haze. There’s a nice chapter break with a storybook looking illustration about halfway through the volume, and it’s something I wish the series did more of.
A promise is made at the end of this volume of Kieli to ‘go back to where the story began.’ To get there Kieli and Harvey are going to have to travel to the Capital, a location that threatens to break that promise and potentially end the story on a dark note. After the silly events that happen in this volume, I’m both looking forward to and dreading the end of the series. While I love the setting and the characters, the events of this volume felt like a few good and necessary ideas gone manically awry. Hopefully the ending to this series will be more narratively solid, because I would hate to duck points for poor mechanics during an emotional ending.
Content Grade: B –
Art Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B +
Text/Translation Grade: A –
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: September 4th, 2012