Manga of the Month: The Ghost and the Lady

The Ghost and the Lady (黒博物館 スプリンガルド) by Kazuhiro Fujita

hisui_icon_4040_round I have generally made it a rule not to randomly attend industry panels anymore. For the longest time, you can see almost any announcements instantly thanks to Crunchyroll News and Anime News Network when they cover conventions. On top of that between fans, bloggers, journalist, and industry reps I have found that Twitter covers all of your other bases. You can even often ask the people running the panel a question over Twitter. But I recently realized I might have spoken a little too soon. What I should have said is that anime panels are not that big a priority but there are some unexpected benefits to going to manga panels.

I say that because I realized that streaming makes people aware of 95% of what is playing in Japan at any time. Other than kids shows and some odd exceptions you can watch almost every major TV show and most of the minor ones. Therefore I feel most hardcore fans have a decent awareness of what is available and what anime is out there. On the other hand, manga is still mostly an ocean of undiscovered country. You need to be able to read Japanese and have access to manga magazines and manga apps to even have a decent overview of what comes out every week in manga.

This problem is only compounded by the fact that I always feel the manga localization companies are mediocre at making people aware of anything but their most prominent titles. Vertical is probably the best about advertising their whole catalog but at most I can only name the big titles from most companies unless I have a personal investment in some of their other series. I am regularly shocked when I see half of  VIZ’s catalog because I was totally unaware that many of their titles exist let alone they were licensed.  I don’t claim to be an advertising wizard that has the solution to this lack of penetration but it is clearly a case where most fans who care have to put in the work otherwise they can easily miss some gems.

One of those diamonds in the rough is The Ghost and the Lady. I had been trying to see as much anime and manga content at NYCC in 2016 one of the panels I attended was the Kodansha Comics panel. There I saw several titles I was totally unaware of. The one that interested me the most was a historical supernatural tale that teamed up Florence Nightingale with Man in Grey of Drury Lane. It has secret histories, magic, dueling, and mystery. SOLD!

If I had not gone to that panel I would have never known this existed. That would distinctly be a shame because this is all up my alley. (I also might have gotten Florence Nightingale as a Servant in Fate/Grand Order so I am doubly interested in various interpretations of her now. That is sort of silly but it is true none the less.)

The Curator of Scotland Yard’s Black Museum receives a very unusual visitor wishing to tell the story of one of the items in their care. It turns out the older gentleman is possessed by a spirit who can explain the mysterious bullet in their position. It is a tale of the resolute Florence Nightingale, her mysterious ghostly companion, and the horrors of the Crimean War. The story begins with Nightingale going to the Drury Lane Theater asking its ghostly inhabitant to kill her.

Before I go any further I would just like to mention that Kazuhiro Fujita is also the author of Ushio & Tora. Much like Osamu Akimoto going from Kochikame to a manga about Post-Civil War manga, this is a fairly interesting change from what they are known for. Parts of The Ghost and the Lady hint that both series could be by the same author but these are not series you would automatically assume had a common origin. The strange mixture of friendship and antagonism that is a hallmark of Ushio & Tora is also present in The Ghost and the Lady but Ushio and Tora are 100% different on most other levels than Florence and Grey. You would never mistake one manga for another in any way shape or form. I always admire when a creator can pivot from one project to another and not feel like they are redoing the same work but still be entertaining.

I have always really enjoyed historical fiction. It combines what I like about straight history with the unlimited realms of fantasy and imagination. That is why I still recommend people watch Le Chevalier D’Eon as an anime. Florence Nightingale is an interesting subject because she is a is someone most people can recognize while still not knowing that much about her. Most everyone knows that she was influential on modern nursing but unless you have an interest in details of the lives of famous 19th-century English women that is probably all you know. While this is a highly fictional account of her life it still examines much of how she reformed nursing and became the angelic hero of the Crimean War despite many obstacles.

But this is far more than a dry text like the worse of the historical comics. One of the main conceits of the series is that there are Eidolons that hover over people and represent their darkest emotions and desires. As a ghost, Grey can see this as they exist on the same ethereal plane. Florence also seems to have a spiritual awareness that allows her to see both ghosts and Eidolons. Whenever people are in conflict these Eidolon clash with the victor being the person who wins the engagement. This allows what would otherwise dry arguments about propriety, procedure, and politics into supernatural battles. Florence still has to win the argument verbally. It just allows the struggle to have a vibrant visual flair.

While Grey continually claims to be waiting to kill Florence he is clearly her guardian and companion. But since he is so standoffish it makes sure that Florence must always be the proactive agent in her own life. Grey never chooses which challenge she will pick next, how she will tackle that problem, and often even tries to deter her from risky or difficult tasks. In the end, he mostly just acts as support when she finally puts her nose to the grindstone. This makes Florence the heroine and protagonist of the series and Grey acts as her companion and not the other way around.

I can’t guarantee that everyone who loves Ushio & Tora is going to find what they loved in that series here. These are two very different stories with wildly different appeals. At the same time if you are lukewarm on Ushio & Tora and/or shonen fighting then this series still has a good deal of potential to appeal to you. The Ghost and the Lady is a series for anyone who likes historical settings with an exciting dash of the fantastical.

If you were unaware of this series before now I understand. So was I. Now that you know about the manga you need to go out and see what it is all about.

Advertisements

What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s