Sunday, 17 January 2010

Royal Doll Orchestra

Kaori Yuki has done it again. One of my favourite manga artists has come up with a new story I will follow till the end of time (or at least till the last volume): “Royal Doll Orchestra”

I could write a post alone about Kaori Yuki’s work. I have done so in the past in my main blog (just check for the label “Kaori Yuki”). This post, however, is about the latest story published in Germany. It is called “Royal Doll Orchestra” and shows the traits I would expect from her stories: blood, interesting characters, gruesome creatures that were once human and blood. (Did I mention blood?)

The story so far (and currently there’s only one volume out) runs like this: in an alternate version of Earth and in a former era (could be something akin to the end of the nineteenth century, but not strictly Victorian), danger awaits humanity. It’s a strange decease, the “Galatea” virus. Galatea is a character out of Greek mythology, a statue so perfect its creator fell in love with it and begged Aphrodite to bring it to life. The virus, on the other hand, turns humans into mindless, aggressive dolls (changing the skin to something like porcelain and letting the joints appear like those of an old-fashioned doll) that will attack and kill every living being they come into contact with – or even worse, infect them, too, with the virus. The only real way to destroy them is some kind of maybe-supernatural death ray: a controlled bolt of lightning that will utterly destroy the whole area. This weapon, though, is only used if more than seventy percent of an area’s populace are infected with the virus.

The “Royal Doll Orchestra” takes another approach to it. The four musicians who make it up (one singer, one violinist, one piano player and one bassist) have the ability to play a very special music that will bring back the ‘doll’s’ minds for a moment and, in the end, even let them die and rest forever (as there’s no cure to the virus). They are, as the reader learns throughout the first volume, outlaws and not supposed to do what they do, but feel the need to do so.

Now why do I do a review of a manga here, in a blog about writing? For one thing, a good manga, graphic novel or comic also relies on good story telling. In addition, Kaori Yuki also works with special themes throughout her work. In “Royal Doll Orchestra” one of the themes is naming every main character after a gemstone. And we’re not just talking about well-known stones here, either. Rutil, Spinnell and Celestit, for example, aren’t the most famous gemstones around. In addition, the infected people in the story turn into “Guignols.” This is a French word originally meaning ‘puppet’ – but there’s also the ‘Grand Guignol’ around, a special form of theatre, popular around the time the manga is set in, where life-sized dolls were used for gruesome stories in which people were killed, maimed and tortured on stage. The name of the infested actually deals well with their looks, but also with their aggressiveness and their ultimate fate (to be destroyed by the orchestra). They move like puppets, have no mind of their own and usually end up in a bloody and gruesome way. (And if they don’t, their victims will…)

The story isn’t developed very far at this time. But then, I’ve only read the first volume. Kaori Yuki is well known for sudden changes in her stories (one more reason why I love her manga). Still, I’m sure the story will be interesting and so I will continue to read it.

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