Reviewby Casey Brienza, Jan 16th 2009
Though his classmates tease him unmercifully about being an orphan and a slave, Teito Klein is the elite Barsburg Academy's star pupil. His mastery of the magical art of Zaiphon is unmatched, and, along with his best friend Mikage, he passes the final exam with flying colors. Unfortunately, after a chance encounter with the sinister Ayanami, his long repressed memories start to return, and he realizes that his life has been a lie. He is actually heir to the throne of the now subjugated Ragg Kingdom! He flees and ends up taking refuge in a church, neutral territory known as “The Zone of God.” Although he gains a trio of new allies within those sacred walls, Barsburg will stop at nothing to get him back—even if that means making fell bargains with ancient demonic powers!
Take a close look at the cover of the first volume of 07-Ghost. It features a frail pretty boy in chains draped around a smirking blond punk who is holding an enormous scythe protectively over the boy. Needless to say, this cover is sublime truth in advertising, and if the aforementioned description doesn't leave you drooling like a St. Bernard for more, don't bother with it for another second.
But if on the other hand you are drooling for more, I think it's safe to say that I know your type—and so does creative duo Yuki Amemiya and Yukino Ichihara. A brooding, superpowered bishounen in Prussian-inspired school uniform coming to grips with his dark past and uncertain, violent future? Sounds like CLAMP's X or Code Geass. As a matter of fact, it also looks a lot like an amalgamation of those two series with its panel busting action scenes and pseudo-European techno-fantasy setting. Although some of the transitions between panels are confusing, requiring too much of a leap in logic to be entirely easy to read, the mangaka visualize their world with assuredness—the Church, with its gothic architecture and elegantly garbed clerics, seems particularly magical—and move with delicious fluidity between the serious and the slapstick. Indeed, the professionalism evinced bellies 07-Ghost's status as their debut series.
The story does not immediately strike one as the work of rookies either. Although as suggested earlier, it is not the most original story premise to make it to print, not by a long stretch of the imagination, this is a story that knows it audience, knows what it needs to do, and then proceeds to do it. Teito is your typical magical boy: small, dark-haired, dour, short-tempered, and angst-ridden. And just in case you didn't think he was gloomy enough, he spends most of volume one in shackles; talk about the clang and bang of heavy-handed symbolism! At first, he thinks that he is an orphan, but he quickly discovers that he is actually a prince of a conquered kingdom who lost both his father and the priest who raised him to enemies that are still (shocker!) after him for as of yet unknown, nefarious ends. They will, naturally, stop at nothing to have him, sacrificing even his best friend Mikage to get him back, and if Teito is to have a prayer for the future he is going to need to the help of the Church…and one rather raunchy male priest improbably named Frau in particular.
Needless to say, like many female mangaka who come up from the doujinshi subculture, Amemiya and Ichihara lard their professional work with homoerotic subtext and “special” relationships. 07-Ghost might set a record, though, for sheer number of special relationships and sexually ambiguous villains. In the first volume alone, we see Teito losing two important people in his life to Barsburg goons, including one who says, “I love you” outright before trying to kill him. (Don't ask.) Then, of course, there is the oversexed Frau, who is certain to play a prominent sidekick/mentor role in future installments. Suffice it to say that creators might as well be groveling on their hands and knees for yaoi parody fanzines. There are also a handful of cute girls who show up here and there, as well as a priest who makes his own humanoid (female) dolls, but these by comparison seem mostly afterthought.
The world-building is intriguing. At first, the Church appears to be an apparatus of the typical fetishized Christianity so often seen in manga and anime, but over time it becomes clear that the God being worshipped isn't the Biblical God at all, but rather something entirely novel. “God” looks like a grim reaper with wings of bone, for starters. How totally cool is that? See the first of four handsome color pages included in the Go! Comi edition for a great image of him. It is not worth summarizing the mythology of the series in detail here, but it sets up an intriguing struggle between good and evil that revolves around the fulfillment of the dreams of humanity. With Teito smack dab in the middle of it all. Obviously. (If you are thinking that this stuff about dreams and deities sounds an awful lot like CLAMP again, you would be…right.)
Anyway, if fujoshi-style fun turns you off, you would be well advised to give 07-Ghost a pass. But if you are reasonably tolerant of or amenable to fangirl excesses, you should make certain not miss such excellently executed manga.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : A-
+ An entertaining, intriguing storyline, handsome art, and boatloads of bishounen in suggestive situations.
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