For general information on this series: Kieli entry
This review is for the third volume of Kieli, by Yukako Kabei (with art by Shunsuke Taue). The English edition was released by Yen Press in September 2010, and the remaining six volumes of the series have since been officially localized.
Kieli, Harvey, and the Corporal have settled in a mining town near the ruins of an old space ship–a vessel that exiled prisoners to the series’ desert planet so many years ago. The setting goes along perfectly with the state of things for our lead characters: a somber and difficult journey has ended, and now a struggle for some semblance of normal living has begun. While Kieli works at a local cafe, Harvey is searching for answers to questions partly resulting from the fallout of volume 2. But how long can any of us readers expect their (relatively) peaceful lives to last?
This volume starts off with a couple vignettes in which our leads deal with some “spirit of the week” diversions. First, Harvey gets caught up in the violent contention of an estranged couple and their sickly daughter (all continuing to linger on as ghosts). Later, Kieli meets a young man (another neighbor, and a struggling author) who is under the spell of a dangerous spirit possessing his typewriter. These side stories are inconsequential, but are nice for giving the characters some breathing room.
The main plot of this volume begins once we learn about the individual Harvey has located and been in contact with: a woman named Beatrix, who is an Undying like him. She turns out to be an interesting character, in that she’s a source of conflict for our two leads, pushing to split them apart — but she’s not a bad person, and the issues she presents are all valid. Harvey is indeed a dangerous person for Kieli to stick around, and in turn Kieli is technically a hindrance for Harvey if he has to worry about her whenever trouble arises (which is all the time in this series). Beatrix also poses the question of how a regular person and an Undying can ever truly understand one another, especially when the Undying have a past as horrific as the War weighing them down. Beatrix too is haunted by her own past (as would be expected for this series), and the author works in a kind of “Joan of Arc tragedy” for her. (It was only a matter of time, right? If I had a dollar for every Joan of Arc reference in Japanese fiction…)
The story ramps up for an action-packed final act when the machinations of a mad scientist type character (secretly conducting occult research in the husk of the abandoned space ship) enters the picture. He is hoping to bring his dead little sister back to life, and an Undying like Harvey could contain the secret solution he needs to make that possible. I kind of expected someone like him to show up at some point in this series, to be honest. Also to be expected, Harvey gets put through the wringer once again, arguably even worse than in the previous two volumes.
In the end though, the status quo for our leads has definitely changed, and it feels like it’ll be a shift that will shake up the formula enough to keep me guessing where things will go from here. So while some aspects of this volume felt a bit too familiar, I did really appreciate the world-building, as well as certain scenes packed with particularly strong dialogue.
Cho’s Rating: Recommended
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