Thursday, March 05, 2009

Heaven's Will, vol. 1

Story and Art by Satoru Takamiya
Published in the US by Viz Shojo Beat

Slugline: Shoujo and the supernatural clash. Cuteness wins!

Sudou is a kanki, a person with the ability to see ghosts and other spirits called oni which she has been trying to avoid all of her life. Well, unholy creatures and boys, whom she just does not understand. While trying to lose pursuing oni a local haunted house Sudou runs into Seto, a crossdressing male dressed as a goth girl and who is an exorcist willing to help her with oni if in return Sodou cooks him/her a cake a day and flushes out more oni. Seto has a sidekick vampire wolf named Kagari that helps them out but is so gruff that he often surprises Sudou. During the course of the first exorcism (which takes up most of the first volume) Seto reveals that is not his/her true name but the name of his dead twin sister. Seto's sister was an exorcist with Seto using his sister's magical fan (which contains her spirit) to perform his exorcisms. The reason for all these complications, including Seto's cross-dressing, is because Seto hopes to make himself enough of a girl to allow his sister to reemerge and take over his body, displacing his spirit but allowing his sister to live again. Despite Seto's guilt-filled rationalization that this is to make up for his sister dying while defending him, Sudou is horrified and is left trying to think of ways to convince Seto to live.

As a Viz Shojo Beat title, this is far more a shoujo than a supernatural thriller, especially with all the talk of feelings rather than planning on how to confront the supernatural. The result is while the characters are well developed the story itself is less so, with the supernatural's rules unclear. In a way, even the art reflects shojo priorities, with Seto's cute goth girl outfits fully realized while the scenes that involve the supernatural sometimes seem unclear and suffer from poor panel construction. I am not a big shojo person, so it would not be a surprise for me to say that I think that perhaps the shoujo aspects should have minimized. But I think that they spent too much of their dramatic energy will on this first case, explaining both of Seto and Kagari's issues in detail together rather than spreading it over several different cases, allowing the supernatural and the shoujo aspects of the title to play off each other rather than existing almost separately. If you are not going to use the supernatural aspects to help inform and explain the characters and the overall story, why bother having those aspects at all?

Heaven's Will, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga


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