Although Halloween may have already passed us by (depending on when you’re reading this) and Japan’s summer ghost season is long gone, there’s never a bad time to read a heartwarming tale about a monster taking care of a young girl. That’s exactly what you get with The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún (commonly referred to as just The Girl from the Other Side) by manga artist Nagabe. The subtitle is actually taken from the title of a traditional Irish song.
Nagabe began publishing The Girl from the Other Side in Japan in 2015 and an English translation followed in 2017. The story takes place in a world that is separated into two kingdoms, the Outside and the Inside. Naturally, the Inside is where normal and well-adjusted humans live (or so we’re led to believe), and the Outside is where everything else lives. In the Outside, the monstrous beings that wander the land can curse humans with just a touch. One such girl who has been touched by these creatures is Shiva and lives with a benevolent beast who she affectionately refers to as the Teacher.
While things start off in a simple and picaresque manner, very quickly the danger of both the Outside and the Inside becomes apparent, and mysteries and deceptions begin to twist the story in interesting directions. The plot is slow moving, but provides a wealth of mesmerizing and at times surreal moments. The languid pacing also allows the simple yet evocative artwork to shine through.
Nagabe’s art style has what could probably best be described as a twisted, storybook aesthetic. While the human characters, especially Shiva, are quite simplistic and cute, the Teacher and other creatures like him are far weirder in design, almost completely black in coloring and more often than not monstrously tall. This mixing of precious and macabre styles make the art very eye-catching.
It’s easy also easy to imagine how entire pages would look if The Girl from the Other Side was ever adapted into an animated series. The panels are framed so precisely and the movement within each is so calculated, it creates a flow similar to film. It’s very easy to stay engaged with the visuals while reading this series.
As mentioned, the pacing of the story is slow, so if you’re the less patient type, you may be a bit let down by the story, especially in the first volume. Things pick up after the first few chapters, and even those early chapter contain a lot of foreshadowing. It’s just that the story isn’t afraid to take it’s time with things. This isn’t a bad thing, as it allows The Girl from the Other Side to focus on building its characters, world, and atmosphere, all of which are mysterious and intriguing.
The Girl from the Other Side is well worth reading if you are looking for something both visually and narratively different from the usual manga offerings. Nagabe’s mix of arresting artwork and atmospheric storytelling strikes a perfect balance. It’s at turns sweet, frightening, strange, and touching.
So far, six volumes have been released in Japan with the seventh volume scheduled for release in March 2019. The fifth volume just hit shelves in North America in September 2018, so along with the slower paced story, you’ll also have to contend with a slow release schedule. The wait is well worth it, though, as The Girl from the Other Side is one of the most visually impressive and enticing series to be released in some time. Definitely worth checking out.