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broodings from the burrow

April 11, 2010

into the stacks: kwaïdan
posted by soe 2:09 am

readathonI’m definitely feeling it now. Would it be cheating and self-defeating to go read in bed?

Kwaïdan, by Jung and Jee-Yun

From the jacket: “In 12th Century Japan, one sister’s spiteful jealousy begins a complicated web of revenge and redemption that spans two centuries. Ghostly encounters, samurai swordplay, undead armies, beautiful landscapes, and strange demons are brought to life by Jung’s lush, expressive artwork. The lost spirits of two unlucky lovers may still find freedom in the supernatural birth of a strange girl … and her ability to unravel the secrets of the restless ghosts that haunt her, the Kwaïdan.”

My take: I believe this was a gift from a representative of Dark Horse Books who was a fellow vendor at an ALA show several years back — the year we were in Orlando. Bill of Overdue Media introduced me to Thea and when I expressed interest in learning more about manga, she suggested this was a good gateway title.

I’m tired so my review is going to be a bit jerky, but basically this is a Japanese ghost (kwaïdan) story. Two sisters are in love with the same man. The homelier, Akane, scars the pretty one, Orin, with burning oil, who then drowns herself out of what would seem to be preemptive self pity. The guy returns from war, learns she’s dead, and gouges out his eyes on the bank of the lake. The sister, too, eventually ends up at the lake, but we later learn it’s so she can achieve some sort of twisted immortality. Confused yet?

Well, it turns out that after several centuries, Orin is able to temporarily escape the lake and imparts a portion of her soul to an about-to-be-born child, whose mother is then murdered by Akane’s demon army. The baby, Setsuko, is born, but missing a face, a symbol of her fragmented soul. Tormented as a child, the masked girl ends up in a brothel but later leaves to follow a blind artist who is known for perfectly painting the face of a beautiful woman he has never met. The two of them embark on a journey to the lake, where they hope to unravel the mystery of what has brought them together.

There’s an army of demon children. There’s a friendly ghost (named Toshiro, not Casper). There are creepy golem-type creatures that serve Akane and act as Orin’s prisoner.

It was good, but not great. But if you know of someone you’d recommend The Woman Warrior to, this is probably a good companion to that novel.

Pages: 144

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