Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Strange things are happening at Yuki's high school. A serial animal killer from seven years ago seems to have resurfaced, an odd boy is filming her on the train, and poetry appears on school blackboards. To compound things, Yuki's being molested on the train everyday. Are these things somehow related?
It's an unexpected love story. It's about a lunatic who kills cats. It's a bit of a mystery. It's about the perils of being a schoolgirl riding the train alone. All of these descriptions fit Gen Manga's most recent graphic novel, Good-bye Geist by Ryo Hanada, and while that can make for a story that tries to do too much, it also makes it difficult to put down.
The heroine of the piece, and the character who really pulls the whole thing together, is Yuki Okazaki, a third year high school student. Yuki rides the train to and from school by herself and has been getting groped lately. She's also noticed another student, Matsubara, on the train with her, but the fact that he always has his cellphone in his pocket with the record light on makes her suspect that he's just as creepy as the mystery groper. She confides in her close friends about both of these things, and they in turn bring up Spirit, the animal killer who stalked the school seven years ago. Spirit appears to be back, or at least have an imitator, and since his or her run ended with a student being stabbed last time, there's a lot of concern about what this means. (Plus, dead cats. That's never something you want left lying around.) Whether or not Spirit is related to Yuki's individual problems is uncertain, but Matsubara is just weird and off-putting enough that the kids are willing to believe he could be behind everything. At this point they enlist the aid of a teacher, which is a nice change in a school-based manga. Not only do the kids go to him, but he also proves to be utterly upstanding and concerned for his students' well-being, making him something of a rarity in a genre (the school story) where teachers are more likely to be portrayed as evil, useless, minions of the system or romantic interests. In fact it is Yuuki-sensei (presumably this was less confusing in the original Japanese) who inadvertently facilitates the solving of the mystery, in as much as it gets solved.
Good-bye Geist's problems stem from simply being too ambitious for a single volume story. Given another book to allow things to play out, Hanada could have drawn out Spirit's story so that it was much clearer and more easily understood, as well as resolved a few other plotlines which are left hanging. The relationship between Yuki and Matsubara is very interesting and rather different in terms of character appearances and the general thrust of the high school romance, and it feels safe to say that this is the most developed part of the book. However it, too, suffers from being condensed into the space of a single volume, making the earlier parts less compelling than they could have been. Simply put, as a longer series, Good-bye Geist could have been fascinating; as it stands, it is merely interesting.
Gen's production values are significantly higher with this volume than with their last graphic novel release, Wolf. Pages are far thicker and no longer resemble tracing paper, now being comparable to other manga volumes. The translation is smooth and the bubblegum pink cover, while somewhat misleading, is eye-catching without being of the stoplight brightness that plagued Wolf. Alignment is off on some of the text, however, with the tops of speech bubbles getting cut off and some edges near the binding being too close to read. While it is generally easy enough to piece together the dialogue, it is still an issue that one hopes Gen will remedy should a second edition go to press.
Hanada's art is an interesting combination of shoujo and the more grotesque character designs of a shounen manga. Yuki's triangular face is clearly intentional, as flashbacks to when she had longer hair give her a rounder face, and the fact that she looks like the same character in both situations speaks well of Hanada's talent. Panels flow easily and tones are used almost exclusively for shadows, with backgrounds kept to a minimum. The Spirit storyline is resolved in a series of flashbacks with black bordered pages (primarily in an epilogue), which works nicely with the ominous tone of that plot and also implies that while we as readers need to know what happened, the characters perhaps do not.
Good-bye Geist is an odd book, but one that is still quite enjoyable. It doesn't resolve everything, which is too bad, but it does take an unusual, ambitious angle on the basic high school story. Should Ryo Hanada be given more pages, it seems likely that the result would be well worth reading. Consider this a preview for a mangaka who, given the chance, could go places.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : B
+ Interesting take on the high school story (particularly in terms of romance), interesting art. Very ambitious and better paper than previous Gen releases.
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