My vacation is coming up, which means it's almost time for me to read massive amounts of manga and then write short, spoiler-filled takes for each volume. One of the series I requested is The Girl from the Other Side, despite my suspicion that I'd enjoy it enough to wish I'd just bought the whole thing instead of reading it via the library. A few of the later volumes have come in, but volume 1 is still checked out by somebody, so I decided to read my personal copy prior to going on my trip. (I don't own any of the volumes after this one.)
In this first volume we meet Shiva, a little girl, and the being she calls Teacher. Any day now, Shiva expects her aunt to come pick her up and Teacher, unwilling to make her sad, doesn't tell her that she was abandoned. Her aunt will never come for her and is possibly already dead.
According to humans, Outsiders are cursed beings belonging to the God of Darkness, and anyone who lives outside their walls must, by definition, be an Outsider. Teacher, an Outsider, tells Shiva that she must never touch beings like him (?). If she does, she'll become cursed and will turn into a hideous beast.
This was, for the most part, a gentle and lovely first volume with an edge of darkness and bittersweetness that reminded me of Natsume's Book of Friends. The setup and Teacher's design reminded me of The Ancient Magus' Bride as well, although Teacher and Shiva's relationship was unambiguously that of an adoptive parent and child. Teacher tried to get Shiva to obey rules that were designed to keep her safe from things she didn't even know she needed to fear, and Shiva wanted to have tea parties and make flower crowns while waiting for her aunt. Teacher's manner and clothing made him seem like an awkward and adorable bachelor who wanted to do well at this parenting thing but wasn't always sure what to do. In that respect, I was reminded of Bunny Drop (the anime - let's forget the later parts of the manga ever happened).
Their relationship was sweet, even as I fretted over what might happen if Shiva found out the truth about her aunt or accidentally touched Teacher. As far as the touching went, I suspected that, rather than transforming Shiva, it would kill her. The "curse" seemed to result in an awful lot of dead bodies, like some sort of plague.
I ended the volume with lots of questions about Teacher and who and what he was. If what he said to Shiva was true, he was once human, turned into his current form by the curse. It's also possible that he's just a supernatural being with a soft spot for children. There's evidence that his memory is faulty - when Shiva told him that he'd introduced himself to her as Teacher, he couldn't recall that moment. Then again, Shiva could just have an active imagination.
I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this series, but I'm also worried that it's going to break my heart. Here's hoping that Shiva and Teacher both survive whatever this world throws at them.
I'm probably one of the few people who noticed this, but someone at Seven Seas messed up and misspelled Nagabe's name ("Nagame") on the last page of the volume. Oops.
- Two four-panel comics starring Teacher and Shiva.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)