Thursday, April 7, 2011

Book Review: Kiele: White Wake on Sand

Back when I was working in the library I became very familiar with their manga section (I remember having to pull everything off the shelves and completely reorganize it several times actually) and grabbed the first volume of the manga adaptation of Kiele and was surprised by enjoying it way more than I thought I would. I later looked it up online and found out that it was an adaptation and decided to go ahead and buy the first volume of the light novels and again ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would. I haven’t gotten a chance to read the second manga volume (it’s a two volume series which I believe covers just the first light novel) but I do know that anyone who liked that manga will like the novels as well.

Kieli: White Wake on Sand by Yukako Kabei
Yen Press got a lot of crap over changing the first volume of Spice and Wolf (which I disliked on the grounds that it was just ugly) but I never hear anyone change about changing the covers for other series and I don't think this is the original Japanese cover, mainly because the title in English is printed over and over again in the background. Regardless, I like the simplicity in the cover and how it has a picture that is very similar to the illustrations of the doll in the book, also like how each book's title is in a different color as well.
Summary: In a far off world that barely remembers that it’s a colony of Earth, Kielei is a young girl with the strange power to see ghosts and, since she’s always had a hard time distinguishing between them and the living, has always felt isolated from other people. Harvey is an Undying, someone who was experimented on during the great war 80 years ago and made immortal and unfortunately the Church has decided to kill all the Undyings they can find. The two of them (along with Corporal, the ghost of a solider from the war who is currently possessing a radio and playing underground rock music on it) are traveling the world now for no better reason than to keep moving, maybe because they keep being attracted to strange situations that never let them stay in one place.

The Good: It’s hard for me to describe, but I just like the overall feeling of Kieli. From the way the setting is described as a very plain and barren place (which I remember from the first book as well, it sounds like a very boring place to colonize) just to the general interaction between Harvey and Kieli it just feels right to me. Probably because the story feels like slice-of-life with a plotline (that is, a slice of life story and each book focuses on a specific arc within it), so stuff actually does happen, and I like seeing Kieli and Harvey grow closer to each other (in the end it's more of a character driven story than a plot driven one, character development as a result of plot?). It's the kind of novel where I can just sit down, read it, and feel satisfied in the end and I like having books like that.

The Bad: I do have to wonder, where is this story planning to go in the end? It’s completed in Japan at nine volumes (and it looks like YP has licensed all of them for release here, wohoo!) but there doesn’t seem to any overarching plot present. There are some hints about Kieli’s family which, looking at the summary for the next couple of books, look like they’ll become important but if nothing substantial pops up by the next book I’m going to be a bit worried. Also hoping that the various bit characters make a reappearance in later books since it seems rather silly to build up an emotional connection with them and then just never use it again.

The Art: Light novels have one or two illustrations per chapter and usually have a few color pages at the start of the book and I really like what the artist did with the color pages here. Normally it’s used to show the characters (like Book Girl does) or to show really important/dramatic scenes (like Spice and Wolf does) but here these pages are used to remind the reader what happened in the last novel. Overall I prefer the manga art to the light novel art (the art here just didn’t really seem very special) but I still did like the opening pages. 

Volume three is already out with volume four coming out later this month so I'll try to grab both of those in the coming months. Probably won't be as soon as I would like but I'm getting the rest of these books sometime for sure.

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