February 5th, 2011

Louis and Lestat

Manga review: Grand Guignol Orchestra vol. 1 by Kaori Yuki



No spoilers.

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Grand Guignol Orchestra is a post-apocalyptic zombie story with a Kaori Yuki twist: these zombies are infected by a virus that turns them into living dolls called 'guignols.' Their joints are swollen like the ball-connections in a doll, their flesh cracked like abused porcelain. With millions dead, the world has been reduced to little xenophobic towns, terrified of outsiders who might bring the virus in.

Into this bleak setting rides the Royal Orchestra, sent by the Queen from town to town with magical music that destroys guignols. The story opens in the town of Toussaint when the Orchestra rides in; hating them on sight, a young boy named Elestial starts investigating them. Hints are dropped that the Orchestra might not be willing volunteers to the Queen, and that they're all of them morally compromised in some way. Why do the Orchestra do what they do, and can they save Elestial and Toussaint? Do they even want to?

I'm a long-time Kaori Yuki fan. Her drool-worthy artwork, gothic style, high melodrama, and complex characters grabbed me by the throat even in her earliest work, when her writing wasn't great and she hadn't figured pacing out. Now, over twenty years after her debut, she's got that figured out. GGO is well-plotted, giving clues each chapter about the Orchestra and the world it resides in while spinning adventures about each new town the Orchestra visits.

GGO has familiar Kaori Yuki touches: beautiful and mysterious men, gender-bending, lush and detailed medieval clothing (the world of GGO is inspired by medieval France), and stories both grotesque and gothically elegant. However, this isn't a copy of her other works, and the most exciting thing about reading it is that I have no idea what's going to happen next.

This is for fans of gothic mystery, post-apocalyptic horror, or jaw-dropping artwork. Or, of course, Kaori Yuki, as this is some of her best work. Viz's translation is thankfully fluid for the perfect final touch.

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Click here for my review of Grand Guignol Orchestra volume 2

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