Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Love in Limbo
After death, everyone must be judged by an angel before their soul is sent on to one of three planes: Heaven, Hell, or Limbo. It's to Limbo that a soldier with amnesia is sent to atone for the many lives he took as a Reaper, someone who guides the souls leaving Limbo to be reincarnated on their way. In Limbo the soldier meets Makoto, a young man assigned to help him acclimate to his new “life.” Makoto gives him the name Calen and before long, the two have formed a close bond. But Makoto only exists because his father, who tried to bring him back from the dead, is also in Limbo. When his dad is ready for reincarnation, what will become of him – and can his lover Calen do anything about it?
Creator Haji describes her two volume BL series Love in Limbo as a story that takes place not in another world, but in the otherworld. That's a fair way to put it – all of the characters in the story are, technically speaking, dead and are either souls consigned to Limbo to work off their earthly sins before being reincarnated or the angels in charge of them. (One line in volume two makes it clear that the angels were also humans at one point.) That doesn't decrease the value of the story as a romance, and in some ways could be said to imply a happily ever after beyond the world of the series, as that same angel remarks that they can, in fact, ensure that souls are reincarnated together, so we don't have to assume that Calen and Makoto will ever be apart. More than anything, however, the setting allows Haji to examine ideas of good and bad and doing bad things for a good reason, as well as the implications thereof.
The story opens with Calen arriving at Judgement after his death. All we know is that he was a soldier (an officer) who died in his thirties or forties, and that he's relatively blasé about the whole “dead” thing. The angel in charge, a recurring character throughout the series, remarks that by Heaven's judgement, the fact that Calen was a soldier fighting the “enemy” doesn't make him any less guilty of murder, and that he's lucky he's not being sent right to Hell. Something about him, however, mitigates his sins, and Calen is to be set down in Limbo to work off the blood on his hands.
When Calen comes to, he's in a field of marigolds (also called calendula) without any memories and with a young man leaning over him. The man is Makoto, also called Golem, and he's been sent by the angel to help Calen figure out his new existence. He's also the one who gives Calen his name – Calen for the calendula field he awoke in. At first Calen can't quite figure Makoto out, or the world he's been sent to, but as time moves on, the two fall in love. The obstacle arrives when Calen learns why Makoto is in Limbo – in what looks like the Edo period, he died of an illness his doctor father couldn't cure, and his father, going mad, attempted to build a clay body and bind his son's soul to it. When the father then died, the son's soul was tied to him and followed after.
This proves to be the major obstacle in the way of their romance. In volume two, Makoto's father is slated for reincarnation, and Calen is desperate not to let his lover vanish along with him. This is where the idea of doing bad things for good reasons really comes into play. Previous to this, it is established that everyone who plays what's essentially a municipal role in Limbo is someone who was a criminal or otherwise did a lot of bad things, just not bad enough to consign them to hell. Like with Calen, the implication is that at least some leeway is given if what you did was for a defensible reason. What that reason is is largely left unsaid, although “soldier” appears to be on the list. Therefore we have no real basis apart from the conventions of the romance genre to believe that Calen will succeed in saving Makoto so that the two of them can be together, or at least that he won't be punished further for it. This works well to create tension within the narrative and it also speaks to the bittersweetness of the fact that all of the characters have been dead the entire time. In life, Calen and Makoto would never have met, being from different times and places. That they met in death is by chance, and nothing guarantees that it will last forever, because even with death there's no promise of eternity.
At its heart, however, Love in Limbo feels like the embodiment of one of the many quotable lines from the film The Princess Bride: “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it awhile.” Although it certainly could have been longer than its two volumes and we never do find out who Calen was in life, it really does make for a nice romance as it is. Haji's art is delicate and attractive, and the long ears – cyclops bunnies – are absolutely adorable while the monsters are scary when they need to be. Although both volumes carry an explicit tag, volume one isn't all that raunchy, although volume two ups the smut factor considerably. Basically it's just a nice story, and if loves that don't always run smooth are your thing, this is a good, manageably-sized series to read.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B+
+ Interesting themes, nice romance plot, good art
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