Reviewed by Ambrea
The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún, a new manga series from Nagabe, tells the story of Shiva, a little girl who lives in the woods with a creature—a man touched by a curse—known only as Teacher. In a world split between the Inside and the Outside, those living inside the safety of the city walls versus those cursed to live beyond its protective borders, Shiva and Teacher exist in a sort of twilight that neither the Insiders nor the Outsiders can touch. But when Shiva unexpectedly leaves Teacher’s care in search of her auntie, her life may be put in peril by the Outsiders who still lurk in the woods—and the Insiders that distrust all who inhabit it.
I picked up The Girl from the Other Side on a whim. It had an intriguing cover and, as I flipped through the pages, I decided I liked the fairy tale quality of the story. As I was reading, I learned about the Insiders and the Outsiders and the strange curse which could be transmitted by a single touch. The story is full of hints of magic, but it’s not overt—no magic wants, no spells, no flashy displays—and it’s easy to forget. Like Shiva, I simply took it for granted that it existed.
While the ongoing battle between the Insiders and the Outsiders—the Insiders attempting to eradicate the curse, killing Outsiders (or perceived Outsiders) indiscriminately; the Outsiders lurking on the periphery of the Inside, actively cursing those who are not wary—is an important aspect of the story, it’s not the focal point of it. Shiva and Teacher’s relationship is the core of The Girl from the Other Side and, personally, I found it to be one of the sweetest aspects of the tale.
Teacher is cursed, so he can’t touch Shiva: he can’t help her to her feet if she stumbles and falls; he can’t hold her hand as they’re walking in the forest; he can’t tuck her in at night; he can’t comfort her if she cries. He can only protect her and help her in quiet ways, while Shiva explores her new world and eagerly awaits the return of her aunt. Their relationship is pure and lovely and warm. Teacher is kind in unexpected ways, like trying to bake Shiva an apple pie when he clearly can’t cook; while Shiva is young, bright, and vibrant, like sunshine bursting into Teacher’s dark world. She’s the only person who doesn’t see a monster when she looks at him.
Honestly, I loved The Girl from the Other Side. I loved every minute of this moving, dark story about magic and curses; I loved the innocent relationship developing between Shiva and Teacher, as they survive in an eerie forest haunted by other Outsiders. I even loved the cliffhanger ending—and I hate cliffhangers.
I also loved the art. Although the manga is only printed in black and white, I absolutely adored the illustrations of Teacher and the other Outsiders. I loved the texture that the author/illustrator seems to bring out and I loved the unique qualities of the Outsiders, specifically how their individual curse shaped them. The art work really fits the tone of the story, creating a wonderfully vivid and darkly poignant tale.