07-Ghost Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Sakura Eries
Review Date: Monday, February 02, 2009
Release Date: Saturday, November 29, 2008

An orphaned slave, who holds the secret to the powers of a lost kingdom, is hunted down by imperial forces and forced to take refuge in the church as memories of his past resurface.

Creative Staff
Writer/Artist: Yuki Amemiya and Yukino Ichihara
Translation: Christine Schilling
Adaptation: Mallory Reaves

What They Say
Teito Klein is a top-grade military academy student with unsurpassed skill in the magic of Zaiphon. But when word reaches him that the officials at his school were behind the murder or his father and the fall of his birth kingdom, he flees to find a way to make things right again... and finds help in the most unlikely place: the Church. The mysterious bishops there may be the answer he needs to learning secrets about himself he never knew, and the truth behind the legendary protectors of the state: the Seven Ghosts.

The Review!
The cover illustration for 07-Ghost is a dramatic contrast of light and dark that features Teito and Frau in a battle pose. Wearing bad-boy long black jacket and pants, Frau wields his magical scythe, which arcs above his head, against a white background. Before him is Teito in his white and gold academy uniform, and for some reason, the chain shackling his wrists is looped over Frau's neck. To the right of the characters is the title logo and volume number, which has a military stamp look to it. At the top left hand corner are the authors’ names.

On the back cover, we have another rather dramatic battle pose, this time featuring one of the seven mystical ghosts. He wields a scythe, and if his weapon and skeletal appearance weren't unnerving enough, he also appears to be engulfing a teenage boy (possibly Teito, but it's difficult to say). A synopsis of the story in gold capitals overlays the top left hand portion of the illustration. At the bottom are ISBN, publisher, and age rating icons.

This manga opens with four color pages, including a two-page spread of the three bishounen bishops. The binding and materials are satisfactory, and the print job is excellent. There are a few pages printed in black-and-white that were originally done in color, and they don't have any muddiness to them at all. Extras include two 4-panel comic strips, an afterword from the creators, and ads for other Go! Comi releases. 

The Barsburg Empire is a fantasy world with floating landmasses, flying machines, and individuals with magic capabilities. The overall feel of the setting is very European. Soldiers wear emblazoned caps and jackets with boots and sabers. The District 7 church is very much modeled after the Catholic church with cathedral style architecture, bishops in surplices, and nuns in habits. The agents of heavens, the so-called seven ghosts, don't look cherub-like at all however. Though representing the side of good, they look more like the Grim Reaper with their skeletal bodies, scythes, and dark cloaks. Magic takes a large part in the story, usually in combat, and the wielding of spells is represented by lengths of rune like symbols.

The artists use a broad variety panel sizes and arrangements. However, while their full-page and two-page spreads are a nice touch in lending a sense of grandeur and impact, and other places, the panels are too small and crowded to effectively communicate the action taking place. In the fight against the Kor in Chapter 4, there was one action sequence I had to read over three times before I was able to figure out exactly what was happening.

Character designs tend towards the bishounen type. Even within our circle of bishops, we've got the naughty rebel, the eyeglass character, and the lolishouta type. Despite the angst filled and mysterious storyline, the manga also includes quite a bit of humor from Teito's and Mikage's horseplay and our three bishops' quirks, and chibis and deformed expressions are used for these scenes.

Go! Comi keeps the original Japanese sound effects with translations placed beside them.  They've done a thorough job with the sound effects and matching the feel of the original with their lettering styles. However, the drawings themselves are so busy that finding the translations amid all that artwork can be a little difficult.  The text in general does not get overly small or cramped, and Halloweenish font is aptly used for some of our more ghoulish characters.

The dialogue translation is satisfactory and flows well overall. The translation retains Japanese honorifics, and story specific terminology and notes are explained in footnotes in the panel gutters.

Teito Klein's got it rough. An orphan and a former slave captured from the vanquished Raggs Kingdom, he's constantly teased and snubbed by his classmates at the elite Barsburg Military Academy in District 1. The only things he has going for him is his one and only true friend Mikage, his extraordinary prowess at the magical combat art of Zaiphon, and the favoritism of the powerful Chairman Miroku. With no memories of his life before the army, Teito's only aspiration is a career in the military with Mikage.

However, all that changes one day when he encounters Chief Ayanami, one of the higher-ups in the Barsburg military. Abruptly, Teito is beset with memories of his father -- and his father's bloody death at the hands of Ayanami. Instinctively, Teito attacks Ayanami and abruptly finds himself on the run from the military he once served.

However, fate intervenes in the form of three bishops. Teito is given refuge by the Barsburg Church in District 7, also known as "The Zone of God," and not even the military can compel the Church to hand over those who have taken sanctuary within the Church's walls. However, Teito is far from safe. There are supernatural forces at work, namely those of Verloren, the God of Death, and his minions, the Kor. Fortunately for Teito, the Church is under the protection of heaven sent guardians, namely the Seven Ghosts, and the three bishops draw upon the powers of their guardians to protect Teito from the attacks of the Kor.

But why are the dark forces so desperate to get at him? And will Teito get to the bottom of it before the one person he cares about gets caught in the crossfire?

If you're looking for a supernatural shonen action title with a complex plot, you may want to give 07-Ghost a try. This manga's plot involves three levels of story: Teito seeking his destiny, the truth behind the Raggs War, and the overarching cosmic battle between the heavenly "ghosts" and the evil Kor. Despite all the details involved, the creators draw you into their world without overwhelming you and hold your attention with a good balance of intrigue and action sequences. One of things I really enjoyed about the story is how it handles the theme of the struggle between good and evil. Though there is something much larger at work than the characters and kingdoms involved, the way characters are swept into the conflict of unseen powers makes that struggle more intense and urgent. By the way, if you're hoping for giant mecha, you'll have to look elsewhere; thus far, the only fighting that takes place is a hybrid magic/hand-to-hand martial arts type.

This story is definitely male-centric from the standpoint that there are no female lead or secondary characters, and the only females thus far are essentially props (i.e. the curvaceous final exams facilitator and the Church's nuns who exhibit harem-like behavior). However, it's not to say that girls can't enjoy the story. The cast is populated by bishounen, and though there's no romance in sight, there are enough emotional moments between Teito and Mikage to jerk on the heartstrings. Regarding our lead character Teito, he is lost royalty, outcast, amnesiac, and magical genius, and on top of all that, he is still a sensitive guy. It's a lot of stereotypes to be rolled into one character, but the creators pull it off such that you wind up rooting for him, not annoyed.

As mentioned in the Art section, though the story is filled with pain and suffering, it’s not all gloom and doom. In between fights and disturbing flashbacks, we have Teito interacting with the rather unique members of the Church that has taken him in, including the pornography addicted Bishop Frau, Bishop Castor and his "dolls," and the winsome nuns who serve up delicacies such as eyeball stew. Their silliness helps keep the story from becoming too heavy as well as providing a well-rounded perspective of the characters. For all their powers, each of them has their own weaknesses and hangups as well.

This title is rated 16+ for swearing and violence.

Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translation Rating: A-
Age Rating: 16 and Up
Released By: Go! Comi
MSRP: 10.99
Pages: 200
ISBN: 978-1605100326
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: 07-Ghost