In the darkness stands a girl draped in pure white. Don’t let her innocent appearance fool you; her hands grip a glistening scythe. Momo is the dark messenger of death who, along with her wise cracking cat named Daniel, is tasked with releasing humans from their mortal bonds and delivering their souls to the great beyond. First encounters with Momo always end in farewells.
Momo is dead. She’s a shinigami, actually. But there’s something different about her.
Unlike the other shinigami, Momo is not dark and scary; instead, she seems to visit those who are struggling in their lives. And she provides a sort of guidance counseling as only she can.
In the first of three short stories, a young man is so self-involved in his depression that he can’t see the world around him for what it truly is. But Momo drops by and imparts some wisdom with him, and he tries to understand what she means.
The second showcases a brother who has eternal regrets from something his sister did. And the last focuses on lost loves and the lengths that some will go to get them back.
In its format, Ballad of a Shinigami is reminiscent of Mushishi because each chapter is broken down with the story of a different person. Momo visits that person and leaves some wisdom or some sense. Then that person becomes the focal point of that chapter until he or she figures out what is needed of him or her.
Although Momo is a recurring character, she seems to take a backseat in the volume. That’s because the people through whom the stories are told end up taking over as the lead for that chapter. So Momo, despite being the recurring character, seems almost rather a footnote in the volume than a central character.
Yet that’s OK, because the narrative in the stories and the strengths of the non-recurring characters keeps the volume afloat. The emotion that fills the characters jumps off the page fairly well. Momo just adds a thread of consistency.