For general information on this series: Kieli entry
This review is for the second volume of Kieli, by Yukako Kabei (with art by Shunsuke Taue). The English edition was released by Yen Press in March 2010, and the remaining seven volumes of the series have since been officially localized.
A long time ago, within a few months of the time I first started this site, I reviewed the first volume of Kieli. I meant to review some of the subsequent volumes, but never quite got around to it. When I decided to do a re-read/finish reading of the series this summer, I figured I should write up reviews for volumes 2 through 9 while I’m at it. I’ll try my best to get these posts out at a steady pace!
Volume 2 is subtitled White Wake on the Sand, and if that sounds like a sad story — you’re right! Kieli is a somber series in general, in which the protagonist regularly encounters spirits of the deceased, and the powers that be on this desert world want her Undying friend Harvey eliminated. This volume focuses primarily on their journey on a boat across a sand ocean, and the trouble they get into along the way. We also get to learn a fair amount of backstory for the two leads, which really drove the themes and the general mood of the series home.
The primary subplot this time revolves around Kieli and her long-deceased mother. On the ship, she befriends a precocious rich boy whom she helps when he’s faced with spirit-related troubles. Kieli sees that the boy (Julius) is protected by the spirit of his mother watching over him, and this makes Kieli wonder about her own mother, whose spirit she has never seen. Kieli lost her parents when she was very little, so she doesn’t remember her mother well, and can’t help but question if her mother really loved her. At the same time, for much of this volume Harvey is being extra-tsun, and the Corporal (still possessing the radio) is sadly in need of repairs. Kieli could really use some support, but Harvey just isn’t the type to offer it.
For as much as it is easy to be annoyed by Harvey’s perpetually brusque attitude, I also can’t help but greatly pity him when the author continually makes his life a living hell. I was really surprised by how violent this volume got, and I guess that was always something I avoided dwelling on when reading this series in general. Harvey’s existence as a regenerating (former) super-soldier means he can suffer all manner of brutal injuries and still survive, and suffer he does. Now that I think about it, it’s rather reminiscent of how Subaru (the protagonist of Re:Zero) is constantly at the mercy of a cruel world’s whims. It’s all a bit much for me at times, to be honest.
That said, if you persevere you’ll find this volume to contain a number of really touching moments, including a surprisingly cute vignette about Harvey and a small animal companion he once spent a part of his life with. To some degree this book does feel like a rehash of the first, and it perhaps doesn’t help that we’re restricted to one (relatively small) setting for the majority of this one. Kieli continually getting herself into one mess after another may also bother readers who aren’t used to that particular trope commonly found in YA fiction. But at the end of the day, this is still a series I enjoy reading, and its focus on how people deal with the deaths of loved ones is something that both makes it stand out and makes it resonate.
Cho’s Rating: Recommended
You can purchase this book online via sites like Amazon (available in paperback or as an ebook) and Book Depository (which offers free worldwide shipping). These are affiliate links, so a small percentage of sales goes toward this site.