Kodansha has brought us a brand-new series called The Ghost and the Lady. A short two volume series in hardcover form, it’s a tale about Florence Nightingale and her life viewed through the eyes of a ghostly phantom. Is it good?
The Ghost and the Lady: Book One (Kodansha Comics)
Written and drawn by: Kazuhiro Fujita
Translated by: Zack Davisson
Lettering by: Evan Hayden
The curator of the Black Museum, a special evidence room in Scotland Yard that contains strange mysteries in British history, is met by a strange guest one night. It’s a ghost known as the Man in Grey, who has a story to tell her. A story about a young woman named Florence Nightingale, her deep despair that was eating her alive, the mysterious beasts called Eidolons that reside above us, and a piece of lead made when two bullets fused together.
The Ghost and the Lady: Book One is quite the enjoyable read, though not without problems. Story wise, the manga takes a while to find its footing and get going. It’s rather slow going at first between character and plot setup, with a lot of exposition dumping and monologuing going on to fill in all the details. While there is some action at points and we do have a basic idea of what the plot is about (Nightingale’s desire for the Man in Grey, dubbed Grey, to kill her due to how miserable she feels), it doesn’t feel very engaging at first.
As interesting as this is, I don’t think I will be apply this knowledge in my daily life.
Over time though, the manga starts picking up the pace and gets very interesting. It’s around when, or after, we meet Nightingale’s parents for the first time and her confrontation with them. We begin to see our female lead develop a backbone and “fight back” against her parents’ demands and start getting on the road to becoming the “mother of modern nursing”, with a bit of Grey’s help along the way. We follow the challenges that Nightingale faces in her early life as a nurse, trying to implement better rules and guidelines in the places she goes to. It’s rather inspiring and engaging to see her struggles in how they are presented here, especially in the final fourth of the book during the Crimean War. I cannot say how historically accurate some of the events are in Nightingale’s life, but the book does provide enough to get you interested in wanting to learn more about her.
The weakest part of the actual story and writing though I would say are the Eidolons. They’re described as these terrible, supernatural monsters that grow and feed on people’s negative emotions and grudges. They grow powerful and lash out at other people’s Eidolons, which exhaust and wear people down mentally. No one can see these things but Nightingale and Grey, with Nightingale’s in particular being physically abusive and hurting her (hence why she wants Grey to kill her, so she can stop being miserable). It’s an interesting concept, especially how it is presented and used at points, with Grey conquering everyone’s Eidolons and Nightingale using a person’s exhaustion from that to make her move. The problem lies in the fact that the element sort of dies out and becomes underused as time goes on. Eidolons still show up and such, but they become less of a big deal and not focused on as much. Heck, the plot point of Nightingale’s own Eidolon harming her is shelved after three or so chapters, making her continual desire to die in the book not as impactful as it once was.
The writing on the book is pretty solid at times, however. Characterization is great here, with a fantastic and complicated female lead in Nightingale (again, not sure how accurate it is though). Grey is a bit different and a harder nut to crack, since we don’t know too much about him outside of being a duelist with standards… kind of. Once we learn his history at the very end of the book, it does give us a different perspective to view him in. The dialogue is genuinely enjoyable to read and there’s a lot of good banter between Nightingale and Grey that sold me on them. The pacing is very slow and it can be a bit overwhelming at points with amount of dialogue and exposition. What most impressed me with the manga is the attention to detail with history. There was clearly a lot of research done to make this story feel authentic and accurate to the time period when it was taking place, with actual quotes from the people at the time and interesting tidbits to help give us perspective on things. For instance, I really did not know how little nurses were respected back in the 1800s and the kind of problems people presumed they had or did have. It really helped me believe why Nightingale’s family was so against her being a nurse in the first place.
Well… maybe if you’re deaf this might be silence.
However, what truly blew me away and helped make this manga so good was the artwork. Kazuhiro Fujita’s art is beautiful looking in its lavish detail that can bring out both the beauty and pure ugliness of the time. Every location feels alive and breathtaking with the amount of detail there, from the theater Grey inhabited to the hospital Nightingale first visits. Everyone is almost instantly recognizable with how they are drawn and they’re able to convey a lot through their expression, even through just their eyes alone. The monster designs are incredible and striking–just completely vicious and horrifying looking. The only issues with the art is some of the egregious nudity depicting Nightingale as she’s internally destroyed by Eidolons and some bad sequential artwork in the action bits, where it’s visually chaotic and hard to decipher what is happening.
The Ghost and the Lady: Book One was a great read. It started slow and had some issues throughout, but it is a fantastic character-focused tale about a real life figure and the not-so-real figure that followed and protected her for its own selfish reasons. It’s very well written and drawn story overall and one of the best historical mangas I’ve read in a long time. All wrapped up in a nice hardcover collection, The Ghost and the Lady is definitely a manga to check out this holiday season.