By Satoru Takamiya
Viz, 200 pp.
The only things that terrify schoolgirl Mikuzu Sudou more than boys are ghosts and monsters (also known as oni). This is an unfortunate fact, since they are especially drawn to her and, unlike most humans, she can see them. Fortunately, she meets up with Seto, a cross-dressing exorcist with a deep appreciation for cake, and his companion, Kagari, a vampire who can transform into a wolf. Seto provides protection from the monsters, Mikuzu provides the cake, and a winning team is born! Things are never as simple as that, of course, and as the three work together as exorcists-for-hire, we learn more about the individual challenges and frailties that complicate the relationships between them.
The first chapter of the volume was intended as a stand-alone piece, and trips along quite lightly for a story about monsters. As the volume continues, however, things get serious fast. As it turns out, Seto dresses like a girl in memory of his sister, who was the real exorcist of the family. She died saving him from oni, and it is Seto’s intention to earn enough money to have a sex-change operation, after which he will find a way to transfer her soul into his living body, resurrecting her and ending his own existence. Kagari, who has been too long miserable in the loneliness of immortality, is devoted to Seto because he has promised to exorcize Kagari’s soul (effectively killing him) before he kills himself. Mikuzu, who is terrified of men, is able to work comfortably alongside Seto because he has the non-threatening appearance of a cute girl. She even falls in love with him, so of course she wants to keep him in this world as long as possible, which means she must work against his plans. All of this is complicated by the fact that Mikuzu is the only one who is able to communicate with the spirit of Seto’s dead sister.
The tale Satoru Takamiya has woven is complex, very poignant, and has no hope whatsoever of working successfully as a single volume. The plot as it stands makes very little sense. There are interesting (if not wholly original) ideas, but without exception, the execution is rushed, clumsy, and generally muddled. Nothing is resolved in a satisfying way, and everyone’s stories are left woefully unfinished. Yet despite the clunky storytelling, the characters’ personal journeys and their relationships with each other are maddeningly compelling. Takamiya’s ideas are far too ambitious for the time and space alloted (possibly also for her current level of skill), and she frequently loses the thread while trying to pull it together, but at the core of it all there is that deep, shining honesty that is the seed of all powerful fiction.
The art in Heaven’s Will is simple, yet expressive. The character’s facial expressions are extremely nuanced, allowing them to move from emotion to emotion with an unexpected genuineness and fluidity, the result of which can be quite moving. Seto’s look of embarrassment when he admits he likes cake, for example, provides a surprising glimpse of vulnerability in his character early on, without being at all melodramatic or cloying.
Although Heaven’s Will is deeply flawed, and not something that can be wholeheartedly recommended, there is much promise there of better things to come.
Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at PopCultureShock.
[…] original review has been reprinted here, and re-reading both that and the book itself, I’m surprised to find that I actually look […]