07 Ghost, Vol. 1 by Yuki Amemiya and Yukino Ichihara
I’m always a little curious about license rescues, and I hadn’t read 07 Ghost when it was released earlier by GoComi. I was even more interested when I saw that in Japan the series ran in Monthly Comic Zero Sum, the same magazine that features Saiyuki Reload and Loveless. In manga genre terms, I suppose that 07 Ghost is josei, although it would be a bit hard to tell from the trade dressing that Viz provided, as it isn’t released under any of the Viz sub-imprints and it is labeled as being for teen readers. 07 Ghost is one of those titles that I can see appealing to a wide variety of readers, as it features a nice combination of world-building, a solid protagonist, magical battle scenes, and perky nuns.
Teito Klein is an orphan going to school in an militarized area. Teito and his fellow students are trained in a form of magical combat called Zaiphon, which uses hand gestures to evoke energy. Teito’s acerbic nature and favored status by one of his instructors ensures that he’s just about the least popular student at the Barsburg Military Academy, but he does have a best friend named Mikage whose sunny disposition contrasts with Teito’s more brooding personality. Teito is An Orphan With A Forgotten Past, and when he starts getting flashbacks to memories from his previous life he begins to think that Barsburg isn’t the right place for him anymore. He confronts Aya, who he suddenly remembers as having killed his father. Aya says that Teito is a “slave from Raggs” and puts him in chains. Teito manages a daring escape and winds up in District 7, the City of God. District 7 is filled with handsome priests and pretty but interchangeable nuns. Teito starts to adjust to a different way of life.
There’s a ton of plot explored in this first volume, but overall I thought that the pacing and world building aspects of 07 Ghost were handled very well. Teito’s journey serves as a way to introduce the tricky geopolitical issues of his world, and the fantasy and action aspects of the manga are visually striking. In District 7, the religious order believes in seven ghosts that serve as guardians against evil. The guardians are depicted as hooded figures with dramatic scythes inscribed with runes. When the unconventional priests battle their spells are also depicted as sweeping scythes that cut across the panels of the manga. This results in some action scenes that are a bit more pretty than coherent, but it was still not to hard to follow what was going on. A large cast of characters are introduced but aside from Teito and Mikage the most prominent person from District 7 is Frau, the cynical priest who rescues Teito and sticks around to make sarcastic comments and protect him occasionally. There’s a bit of a Saiyuki vibe with Frau and Teito’s relationship, which makes sense given the source magazine for the manga.
When I finished 07 Ghost I wanted to see what would happen next with Teito’s story. While Teito’s amnesias-orphan status isn’t particularly novel, I enjoyed seeing the world he lives in and it was fun to read a fast-paced fantasy manga. I feel like many of the series I’ve been reading recently develop much more slowly, so 07 Ghost‘s storytelling pace was a nice contrast. The attractive art, fighting priests, and hints of a larger magic/spiritual system to explore all have me looking forward to the next volume. I can see why Viz chose to put out this series again. It has plenty of commercial appeal, but is still quirky enough to be genuinely intriguing.
Review copy provided by the publisher