Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Merry Month of Manga Review: 07-GHOST

Let's take another break from all this shoujo fluff to look at something full of battles and military figures and demons.  It's just a shame that it couldn't be something good as well.

O7-GHOST (Sebun Gosuto), written by Yuki Amemiya & art by Yukino Ichihara.  First published in 2005, and first published in North America in 2008.


Teito Klein is a promising young military recruit, in spite of his origins as a slave.  A chance encounter with some of his superior officers unlocks hidden memories in Teito's mind, memories of his time as a prince of the realm of Raggs, of his father's death, and of the church that took him in as a child.  This revelation now makes Teito an enemy of the state and he is forced to flee to the wastelands surrounding the military academy.  Teito finds refuge in the church once more, but now he's caught in a long-standing battle between two empires as well as the spiritual forces of good and evil.


07-Ghost is a wretched mess of a shonen manga, throwing together all sorts of ideas and archetypes smashing together every idea it has without bothering to craft those ideas into a cohesive and compelling whole.

There are a lot of archetypes in play here - you've got the orphan discovering their forgotten past, a rebel out to take down a corrupt authority, an innocent caught in a battle between good and evil, a Chosen One who will save the world.  All this and much more are here and present, often simultaneously.  Maybe Amemiya could have turned them all into something good or fun, but it seems more he's trying to just barrel through as many of them as possible at breakneck speed.  Even during the ostensibly quieter moments, he just speeds through every event, conversation, and jokes like he's got somewhere else to be.  The story's lack of patience hurts the story in a major way because there's a lot of information about Teito and his world to take in and giving the reader some time to do so would have gone a long way towards creating a better story.

It doesn't help that all this disparate story ideas don't seem to fit together very well in the first place.  I can run with the idea of a magic-based military complex, even if it does dangerous skirt the overdone magical high school idea.  Then Amemiya has to go and add wacky bishops, shape-shifting mermaids that double as the organists and choir, and beings that are demons in everything but name, and it feels like Amemiya just threw in all the ideas he had and hoped for the best.  Even the characters feel lost within their own story, although that may be just because no one seems to have much of a personality.  Even after he rediscovers his identity, Teito is bland as bland can be.  His allies are either broad and wacky or just as boring as he is.  The villains are your standard issue evil-for-the-sake-of-evil sort, out to conquer all they see and as they vaguely hint at plot points.  This is a dreadfully boring cast.

Amemiya does try to bring some levity to this otherwise serious plot, but it seems like the only joke he knows how to employ is the running gag with a lecherous priest, and that joke is well and truly beaten into the ground by volume's end.  He also tries to give Teito's relationship with his best friend Mikage some sort of substance, and it's probably the only thing he gets marginally right.  He doesn't delve too deeply into either of them, but we do see enough evidence for a deep bond between them and thus it makes sense when Mikage is willing to sacrifice himself near the end for the sake of Teito.  It's still far too little and far too late to save what is otherwise a dull grey garbage pile of a story.


If there's one thing I'll say for the artist, it's that he does have a bit of a knack for action.  There's a lot of squash and stretch in the battles, and he uses it for good effect by having the characters thrust weapons, hands, and magic spells towards the reader, like a faux 3D effect.  It gives those panels a sense of energy and motion that they might not have otherwise.  Sadly, this is the only good thing I can say for Ichihara's art here, because much like the story it's sloppy, bland, and verging on incoherent.  The battles are a nightmarish mess of swirling magic, flying limbs, and shouting, and sometimes it's hard to tell up from down during those sequences.  Since he's putting so much stuff in the foreground, the backgrounds are all but nonexistent.  Even when they are present, he doesn't put much imagination into them, which is probably why most of Teito's world seems to be made up of rocky wastelands.  I don't understand how Ichihara can bring so much energy to one facet of his art but not bring that same sense of energy and excitement to the rest of his art.


07-Ghost has a bit of energy, but no amount of energy can save either the story or the art from being a total trainwreck of a manga.  I'm kind of shocked it got relicensed, if simply because it doesn't seem like the sort of thing that would stick in anyone's mind.

This series is published by Viz, and formerly by Go!Comi.  This series is complete in Japan with 17 volumes available.  Go!Comi published 7 volumes, and all are currently out of print.  Viz has published 16 volumes and all are currently in print.

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