Tag Archives: kaori yuki

Grand Guignol Orchestra Vol 1-5: Manga Movable Feast

In a world infected with a deadly virus that turns its victims into zombie-like dolls call Guignols, a traveling band of musicians, known as the Grand Orchestra, wander the world, and bringing music to the uninfected. For the right price they will perform any song and maybe even a miracle. Led by Lucille, the beautiful singer, the Orchestra searches for the legendary Black Oratorio, which is said to hold the answer to ending the Guignol Virus.

GrandGuignolOrchestra_GN01_coverBy Kaori Yuki
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Horror/Romance
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

Grand Guignol Orchestra is latest Kaori Yuki title to be released in English. It is a Gothic horror,  that puts a different twist on the zombie phenomena. I’ve enjoyed Yuki’s work since I first read Godchild, and was looking forward to reading her take on zombies. I wasn’t disappointed. The interesting characters, mixture of music and zombies, and a story with lots of twists and turns all wrapped up in a fairy tale-like setting made this a fun read.

Grand Guignol Orchestra 2Right from the beginning I liked the characters. Lucille, the beautiful, gender-ambiguous leader of the Orchestra starts as rather capricious and a little sinister. But after seeing the “Divine Lightning” in action, a more serious and grim side to him is shown. His motives aren’t revealed at first, and a lot of doubt is cast on him as being good or trustworthy. But as the story progresses, the truth is revealed, and we see that not only Lucille but his sister were manipulated into their circumstances, but Lucille had the strength and courage to find a way out for them.

Lucille’s companions in the Orchestra, Kohaku and Gwindell also have their sinister sides. It is revealed at the beginning, that they are convicted criminals, and travel with Lucille in order to pay down their bail. Kohaku plays the violin, and loves his guns. He is also able to hide and infinite number of weapons on his person. Gwindell, the cellist, is the strong but silent type. He drives the hearse they travel in and carries a hedgehog with him, a memento of his daughter. Both of them claim to not like Lucille, that they are forced to be with them, but when push comes to shove, they do come to his aid. They backgrounds are revealed toward the end, and like Lucille, they are not as bad as they were made out to be.

Grand Guignol Orchestra 3The final member of the Orchestra is Eles/Celes. She is masquerading as her twin brother after her piano playing accidentally sends the surrounding guignols into a frenzy, infecting or killing the rest of the children in town, as well as several of the townspeople. At her father’s behest, she joins Lucille to find a reason to live as herself. She is the sane member of the Orchestra, trying to make sense of the insanity around her. She is also the one person all the members of the Orchestra care enough about to truly want to protect.

The story moves at a brisk pace, as there is only one story to introduce the characters before diving headlong into the plot. No chapter after the first is really a stand alone, as each revelation adds another piece to the puzzle that is finally put together in the final chapters. The twists the story takes, from who and what Lucille really is, to Gwindell’s past, to the final reveal of the true villain made for a great ride. I did like how Le Senat, who seemed to be the villains at the beginning, are slowly revealed to be more than they seemed, and even honorable enough to stop one of their own, and allowing Lucille to complete his mission. I also really liked how all the seeming supernatural elements, such as the Queen’s divine lightning, were explain scientifically. Sadly, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how the world ended up that way, or that one man’s obsession could cause such a world-wide catastrophe.

Grand Guignol Orchestra 4Now, I’m not a big fan of blood and gore, so zombie stories don’t tend to be something I enjoy. This title is a definite exception. Yuki’s zombies are different from the usual rotting, meandering creatures with their flesh falling off. They are more like wooden dolls, with hardened skin and joints, and frozen expressions. I think having them like dolls is much more scary, since dolls are real things, and can be scary on their own in the right circumstances. The “clankity” sounds they make are really creepy. They aren’t completely mindless. Under certain circumstances they can regain their selves, making them less like monsters and more something to be pitied. Music is one of those circumstances.

Music is an important element in this series. The guignols respond to it for some reason, whether its Celes’ piano playing, Lucille’s voice or even a single tone, music can drive the guignols to attack, become themselves for a few moments, or break some control over them. Music is also the way the Queen controls her divine lightning and even some guignols. Ultimately, it is music, a song from the Black Oratorio that finally ends the terror of the guignols. And with the shadows of the original Queen and the King that created her gone as well, the series can reach a happy finale.

Grand Guignol Orchestra 5I really enjoyed Grand Guignol Orchestra. It wasn’t as dramatic or angsty as Yuki’s earlier titles such as Angel Sanctuary or Godchild. Considering what those protagonists had to go through, Lucille had it pretty easy. He still had a lot of difficult obstacles to get through, but he never gave up, no matter how hopeless the situation seemed. That is one of the things I love about Yuki’s protagonists. I was also really happy to see the series had a definitive happy ending, and we are not left to wonder what happened to the Orchestra. Though, Lucille’s face is left in shadow, so we don’t know what effect the destroying of the guignol virus had on him. But then, some things are best left unsolved.

I didn’t have any real issues with this series, other than it felt rushed. I would have liked a few more stories of the Orchestra helping other towns before plowing into the main plot. A little more of Lucille, Gwindell and Kohaku arguing and fighting guignols would have been nice, but not having doesn’t diminish the series any.

Grand Guignol Orchestra ended shy of half a volume, so one of Yuki’s short stories, Camelot Garden was used to fill it out. This is another story that mixes fantasy with science to good effect. It’s premise is similar to Grand Guignol Orchestra with a father determined to keep his daughter to himself though it uses the poem ‘Lady of Shalott’ by the English poet Lord Alfred Tennyson as it’s core. I really enjoy stories that do this, weaving the story and pictures around a poem or song.

I really enjoyed Grand Guignol Orchestra. It has the perfect balance of humor, drama, action, romance and a happy ending. It’s hard enough to get this in any series, let alone a Kaori Yuki manga. This series is rather atypical of most Yuki titles, so while I do recommend it for readers looking to get into her work, be warned that the warm and fuzzies from this series aren’t translated to a lot of her other works. Pick it up in print or in digital on Vizmanga.com.

Manga Dome Podcast Episode 3: Manga Movable Feast

In honor of the Manga Movable Feast, this week I talk about the themes in Kaori Yuki’s manga. I also take a look at the manga nominated for the Eisners this year, and the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic manga that was recently announced in Japan. Please enjoy!

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Show Notes:

Eisner nominations
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic manga
Kaori Yuki Manga

Music courtesy of Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech

Angel Sanctuary Volumes 1-4

Setsuna Mudo has some serious problems. He is always getting into fights, doesn’t care for authority, and worst of all, has incestuous feeling for his sister, Sara. To top all this off, he also seems to be the reincarnation of the angel Alexial, who is being punished by God for rebelling against him. Now, Alexial’s twin, Rosiel is trying to kill Setsuna before Alexial awakens, the demon Kurai wants Alexial to awake and lead the demons against heaven, and all Setsuna wants to do is run away with Sara.

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Angel Sanctuary Volume 1-4
By Kaori Yuki
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Shoujo
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I read the first volume of Angel Sanctuary a few years ago, and at the time didn’t care much for it. But after reading, and enjoying, other works by the same creator, Kaori Yuki, I decided to give the series another try, and read a few more volumes to give it a real chance.

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The story revolves around Setsuna Mudo, your typical angst-ridden teenage boy with the usual problems you’d expect a teenage boy to have; getting into fights and not caring for authority. But the one problem he does have, that makes him unusual, is the incestual feelings he has for his sister, Sara. He tries not to express them, coming off more like an overprotective brother, but his inner thoughts are consumed by her. This has completely alienated him from his mother, who seems to sense there’s something wrong with her son, and doesn’t trust him with Sara. This plotline dominates the first four volumes, as Setsuna struggles with his growing feelings and finally gives in to them, convincing Sara to run away with him.

But Setsuna has another problem. He is also the reincarnation of the Archangel Alexial. The demons, led by Kurai, want to awaken Alexial, so she can lead them against the armies of heaven. But the angels fear Alexial, and one angel, Katan, takes it upon himself to use forbidden magic in the form of a computer program, Angel Sanctuary, to free Rosiel, the only angel that has a chance going up against Alexiel. Rosiel is too consumed by revenge and himself to care much for heaven’s problems, and will use anyone or everyone to kill Alexiel.

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When I first read this series, I was bothered with the incest angle. But after reading more of Yuki’s titles, I came to realize it was just a plot device she used to create angst in her characters. And there is a lot of angst in this series. I nearly lost all interest in the series, as the first three volumes is consumed with Setsuna and Sara willing to sacrifice their own happiness for the sake of the other. The actual angel plot took a back seat to this as the importance of Setsuna’s and Sara’s relationship was emphasized, as it becomes the catalyst for Alexiel’s awakening. I understand the need to emphasize a point, but was 3 volumes of angst-ridden teens really that necessary?

The angels of Angel Sanctuary are not your typical “dressed in white with halos and hands together in prayer”. They are little different from humans, with many of the same desires and animosities. They are also the biggest jerks you could ever imagine. They think nothing of raping a demon survivor of a massacre they had just done. Female angels are persecuted for being temptresses, and they have little to no interest in humanity. They seem to be more preoccupied with a power struggle of who will be in charge now that God has had to go to sleep as his power weakens. They will go to any length to succeed. The entire time I was reading these volumes, I couldn’t help but notice the striking similarity between the way these angels acted and the angels in the TV series Supernatural. The angels in that show were in a struggle with each other to cause Armageddon while God was absent. The Supernatural angels were just as big of jerks, and cared just as much about humanity. I wonder if the creators of Supernatural were familiar with this manga?

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My interest returned with the fourth volume, as the story turned toward a more traditional quest plot. Setsuna is determined to rescue Sara, and must take a Orphean journey to the underworld to find her. Along the way, he will have gain followers, both angel and demon and return before his time is up (literally). He starts out with a familiar face as a guide, and while he may have it in for Setsuna, there do seem to be indications that he may become Setsuna’s first follower. The quest plot was infinitely more entertaining than the angst-ridden teenagers of the first three volumes. I may continue with the series, but only because of this turn of events. If I had stopped reading at three, I wouldn’t have considered continuing.

The art is ver recognizable as Yuki’s, with longs of beautiful boys and long, stringy, flowing hair. You can tell this was written early in her career, as the art is rougher and not as refined as Godchild. It doesn’t look bad, but you can tell it’s not her latest work.

I wanted to like Angel Sanctuary, since I’ve enjoyed so many of Kaori Yuki’s other titles, but the first three volumes made it really hard. A little bit of angst I can take to establish a conflict. Spread it out over length of the story, such as Godchild does, if you must, but concentrating so much at the beginning really turns me away. I think I will investigate further volumes of this series, just to see where it goes, but I think I’ll borrow, or if it ever becomes available digitally. I want to know better what I’m getting before investing in a 20 volumes series, especially with such a shaky start.

PR: Viz Media Debuts Gothic Creeper Grand Guignol Orchestra in October

Though I was slow to get on the Kaori Yuki bandwagon back when Angel Sanctuary came out, her titles such as The Cain Saga and Godchild have since convinced me how great her work is. So hearing that another one of her titles had been licensed thrilled me. That it features musician thrilled me even more. Find out more after the break.

Continue reading PR: Viz Media Debuts Gothic Creeper Grand Guignol Orchestra in October

Wish List: Blood Hound

Since I started the week with a Kaori Yuki title, let’s stay with that theme.  And since vampires are all the rage this year, let’s make it a vampire manga.  Yorugata Aijin Senmonten – DX aka Blood Hound is a one shot volume that was serialized in Hana to Yume from January 2003 to June 2004.

BloodHound(manga)_CoverBlood Hound is about Rion, a loudmouthed teenager who goes to a host club full of vampires looking for her best friend.  She believes the vampires are behind her friend’s disappearance, as well as of those around the neighborhood.  During her investigation, she begins to befriend them, including their leader, Suou.  He believes that Rion is the re-incarnation of Ellone, “the one with the purest blood”, and a woman he once loved.  A romantic relationship starts to develop between the pair.  The volume ends with Rion discovering who is behind the disappearances.

This title was made into a J-Drama as well, called Vampire Host, that ran on TV Tokyo from April to June, 2004.  It went for 12 1/2 hour episodes, which made 6 1 hour stories.  It’s loosely based on the manga, and has a much more humorous vibe to it.  Suou isn’t the angsty vampire type.  He seems satisfied to work at the host club.  Rion is strong-willed and their relationship revolves around him trying to threaten her with being bitten, and she smacking him.  I’ve only seen a few episode of this series, but it was really fun.  It was licensed by Bandai Entertainment in 2007 and is available under the name Blood Hound: Vampire Gigolo.

While this is only a single volume and a lot of things remain unresolved (namely Rion and Suou’s relationship), it still looks to be a good title.  The lack of vampire angst and having a mystery to solve definitely raises my interest level.  It’s been licensed in France and Germany.  So why not us too?  At one volume there isn’t a lot of risk.  And the more non-angsty vampire manga we can get to balance out against what’s already out, so much the better.

Super-size Me!: Angel Sanctuary


I was late in discovering Kaori Yuki’s work.  It wasn’t until Shojo Beat and Godchild, which was one of the debut titles, that I learned how great her work was.  But before Godchild and it’s prequel The Cain Saga, another series by Kaori Yuki was released in the US.  That was Angel Sanctuary.  This 20 volume series was first released by Viz in 2004 and completed it’s run in 2007.  The story is about Setsuna Mudo, the re-incarnation of the Organic Angel Alexiel.  Alexiel rebelled against heaven and as punishment was sentenced to be re-incarnated as a mortal and to live a life filled with pain and suffering.  Setsuna is discovered to be the latest re-incarnation and is pulled into the war between heaven and hell.

I’ve only read the first volume, and wasn’t quite ready for her style of writing then.  But after reading her other titles that are available in English, I would like to try this series again.  I was bothered by the incest introduced in the first volume of Angel Sanctuary, but now realize that is a common theme in her titles.  My only problem now is, the series is 20 volumes long!  20 volumes is a lot to track down, and take up a lot of space.  This is what makes Angel Sanctuary the perfect candidate for the VizBIG format.  It’s complete and it’s been so for a while, like several of the other titles we’ve seen come out.  It’s length makes it difficult to find in the individual volume format and will take up a lot of space.  9 volumes are a lot easier to handle and collect than 20.  And with several other of her titles out, it’s the perfect time to reintroduce her most influential work to a new audience, as well as the growing interest in titles for older readers.  While it’s rated Older Teen, it’s rating could go up, as other of her titles have.

Angel Sanctuary has all the making of a great addition to the VizBIG line.  Hopefully Viz realizes this and will re-release this series soon.