Review

by Carlo Santos, Jan 11th 2009

Heaven's Will

GN

Synopsis:
Heaven's Will GN
Mikuzu Sudou has a special skill she wishes she didn't have: the ability to see ghosts and spirits, which unfortunately also attracts them to her. However, her problems might finally be solved when she meets Seto, a boy who's training to be an exorcist (and also happens to enjoy dressing in girls' clothing). Accompanying Seto is Kagari, a handsome vampire who can transform into a wolf. With these companions, Mikuzu finds herself well-equipped to battle the dangerous spirits that approach her. But the greatest danger might be the one that comes from within: when Mikuzu finds out about Seto's past and why he behaves the way he does, the revelations threaten to tear their friendship apart.
Review:

In the world of the supernatural, the outward act of communicating with spirits isn't always as important as what's going on in the heart and mind. That seems to be the approach of Heaven's Will, where the internal drama between the characters, as well as their troubled pasts, provide the main substance of this one-volume affair. Unfortunately, that drama ends up being too little too late, and everything else in between is filled with the kind of pseudo-Victorian fluff that's grim enough to earn the "horror" label but not enough to earn the label of actually being "good." Instead, this story settles for meeting the minimum requirements of a shoujo quickie with ghosts in it, which for most readers will mean that it doesn't meet their requirements at all.

Like many series of its kind, Heaven's Will started out with a one-shot chapter that had the good fortune of being converted to full serialization (although the serialization clearly didn't last long). Even from that pilot chapter, though, one can see that the material just isn't very promising in the first place—here we have your average spirit-seeing high schooler, who meets a couple of unusual people that help her exterminate spirits. What, exactly, is supposed to differentiate this from the hundreds of other cookie-cutter spirit-hunting manga? Is it the quirks of the various characters? Unfortunately, Seto's personality seems more like artificially generated fujoshi fodder (cross-dresses in goth loli! Likes cake!) and Kagari's lycanthropic ability adds little depth to his typical moody bishounen nature.

With such weakly constructed characters, the only hope left is for the story to improve as it goes along. The remaining chapters from a story arc revolving around a cursed piano, as well as providing the framework for explaining Seto's and Kagari's back stories. As it turns out, these flashbacks are the highlights of the story—Seto's losses and sacrifices as a child, as well as the delicate friendship he forms with Kagari, are more engaging and touching than most of what happens in the present day. There's also Mikuzu's encounter with a fragment of Seto's past, which provides the impetus for the final segment of the story—but given these promising elements, it seems that Satoru Takamiya just can't pull it together into a tight narrative. Instead we get endlessly vague scenes where the characters discuss their tortured feelings and relationships for pages at a time, while occasionally dealing with the spirit-extermination case at hand. With directionless storytelling like that, well, it's no wonder that your editor might come walking up to you and say that maybe it's time to cut things short.

The artwork fares slightly better, showing cleanliness of design (black and white contrasts are a big help) and a good eye for attractive characters and outfits—but when put in the service of a story as deficient as this one, it's hard to find any other visual strengths. With the characters rambling about their feelings as much as they do here, the layouts tend to reflect that with dull, poorly organized talking-head panels and hard-to-follow chains of dialogue. At its worst, it's almost like the illustrations and lines of text are placed at random on the page. (Try reading it backwards! Does it make any less sense—or more, perhaps?) The supernatural effects are a bit more interesting to the eye, and thankfully avoid the mistake of piling on too many screentones, but they lack any unique characteristics when compared to the rest of the genre. The spirit manifestation of the cursed piano—a cloud of floating keys—is particularly hokey in concept.

Another key contributor to this story's mediocrity is the dialogue, or perhaps the monologue, seeing just how often the characters are found thinking or mumbling to themselves. Although the text is translated straightforwardly, it doesn't make the script any less labyrinthine, with people wasting dozens and dozens of words on their feelings toward each other. Especially grating is the device where internal monologue takes place at the same time as spoken dialogue ... and all the sentences ... are split ... by oddly placed ellipses. With a linguistic nightmare like that, maybe we should be thankful that the sound effects (not that there are very many of them) are converted into English, since it's hard enough figuring out the language of angst that the characters are speaking in.

In the hands of a better artist and storyteller, and perhaps with more room to expand than just a few chapters, Heaven's Will might have fulfilled its promise as a dramatic, character-driven supernatural series. Instead, it limps awkwardly through a single volume, bringing in ideas and elements that never quite pull together. The characters' back stories (which aren't even introduced until about halfway through) end up being more effective than the main storyline, and any attempt at being visually interesting—mostly through vintage outfits and designs, plus subtle black-and-white contrast—is derailed by dull scenes where characters stand around and engage in rambly dialogue. If the will of Heaven is for us to sit through a poorly executed supernatural tale, then maybe Hell would be a better choice.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall : D+
Story : D
Art : C+

+ Intriguing back story elements and attractive character designs provide a promising basis for a series.
Never takes off due to weak characters and even weaker storyline hampered by long stretches of shoe-gazing dialogue.

Story & Art:Satoru Takamiya

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Heaven's Will (manga)

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Heaven's Will (GN)

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