Saturday, November 24, 2018

REVIEW: The Girl from the Other Side (manga, vols. 2-4) by Nagabe, translated by Adrienne Beck

The Girl from the Other Side is a series I considered not adding to my vacation reading list, since I figured it'd be one I'd eventually want to buy. However, considering my complete lack of shelf space (I currently have a couple piles of books in my living room that I'm not sure how to store), I figured it might be best to read the series via library checkouts instead.

At this point, it's tough to say whether this will end up on my list of series I want to periodically reread or not. On the one hand, there are sad and chilling moments that make me suspect the series' ending will be like a punch in the gut. On the other hand, there are occasional parts that are a little hard to follow (have readers learned everything Teacher knows about the curse or not? I'm not sure), events occasionally progress in odd ways (we never see how Shiva convinces Auntie not to take her and go - the problem just evaporates), and I suspect that my ultimate feelings about the series will rely a lot on what Nagabe eventually reveals about the curse and Shiva's connection to it.

I had expected this to mostly be a slice-of-life series about Teacher raising Shiva, so the brief return to the Insiders and Shiva's aunt's fate took me by surprise. I definitely plan on continuing this, although, for now at least, it's probably a good thing that I'm doing it via library checkouts. Oof, I need bigger bookcases. If anything ever prompts me to buy a house, it will be my book collection.

Reminder: this is one of my vacation reading posts, so you can expect major spoilers from here on out.

The Girl from the Other Side (manga, vol. 2) by Nagabe, translated by Adrienne Beck - Teacher finds an Outsider in his home, touching Shiva, and attacks it (her? I vaguely recall feminine pronouns being used at one point, but I'm not sure and my notes are unclear) to defend Shiva. Shiva and Teacher go after the Outsider because it said it knew where Shiva's "mother" is. Teacher follows the dog-like Outsiders into a lake and learns a terrible thing about the curse, which Shiva will surely eventually show symptoms of. Meanwhile, the Insiders send Shiva's aunt out as bait to capture Shiva. Extras: a couple full-color pages and a few four-panel comics.

I'm intrigued by whatever it is Teacher learned. What is the nature of the curse and why do both Insiders and Outsiders want Shiva? Also, where did Teacher come from and why doesn't he remember?

Teacher leaving Shiva alone while he went into the lake with the Outsiders struck me as both risky and out-of-character. What if it was a trap? What if Insiders came across Shiva while was alone, with only a headless and untrustworthy Outsider for protection?

I hate to say this since I mostly love the character designs and artwork in this series, but the fight scene between Teacher and the Outsider was pretty bad. Very stiff and difficult to follow. The dark characters plus dark floorboards and grey walls didn't exactly help.

The Girl from the Other Side (manga, vol. 3) by Nagabe, translated by Adrienne Beck - Shiva's aunt takes her back to the Insiders, leaving Teacher all alone. Things go badly very quickly - Shiva's aunt succumbs to the curse, and so the soldiers raze the town. Shiva and Teacher find each other again, but Shiva is feverish, injured, and horrified at the possibility that she might have ultimately been responsible for all those deaths. Shiva's aunt, now an Outsider, arrives and tells Teacher that, yes, she abandoned Shiva, but she also once found Shiva abandoned and took her in. Extras: a couple full-color pages and some four-panel comics.

The suspense, as Shiva's aunt began to display signs of the curse, was great. The entire "razing of the town" scene made me think of Attack on Titan - dark and awful.

Since I had theorized that the curse was actually just a disease and the Outsiders were just beings shunned by humans, the revelation that the curse was a real thing was a bit of a shock. I'm very intrigued by the beginning of Shiva's aunt's story. Where did Shiva come from? Is she some kind of carrier of the curse? I also found it interesting that Shiva's aunt retained both her personality and her memories.

The Girl from the Other Side (manga, vol. 4) by Nagabe, translated by Adrienne Beck - Shiva's aunt tells Teacher the story of how she found baby Shiva Outside, next to her dead parent. She also tells Teacher that the true horror of the curse isn't just how it changes people, but that it makes those it affects immortal (which is why soldiers kill everyone while that's still possible). After that, she grows more and more protective of Shiva, even going so far as to urge Shiva to run away with her. Meanwhile, Teacher feels lonely, and like an interloper. Shiva and her aunt come back, however. Auntie begins to lose her memories and ends up leaving. The volume ends with the Outsider from earlier in the series bringing back her head. Does this mean she has somehow died, despite telling Teacher that Outsiders are immortal? I guess I'll find out later.

This volume is heart-wrenching on multiple levels. First there was Teacher, who was clearly distressed at the possibility of being left alone but who, at the same time, wanted what was best for Shiva. Then there was Auntie and her deterioration. I wonder why it started so suddenly and progressed so quickly? Do all Outsiders find themselves forgetting the people and things they loved and moving on? It doesn't seem to affect relationships formed after they become Outsiders, or Teacher would have forgotten Shiva and moved on already. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, Teacher seems to do better when Shiva is around. If Shiva's aunt had stuck around, could she have learned to love Shiva again? Or maybe it would have been too upsetting for everyone involved.

Extras: a couple full-color pages and a few four-panel comics, one of which revealed that Teacher managed to learn how to bake a pie from Shiva's aunt before she forgot how to make pies. Aww. Speaking of pie-baking, I loved the artwork during the scene where the flour got dumped everywhere. It was the first clear view of what Teacher and Auntie's facial structures were like.

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