Black Gate (Vol. 1-3) by Yukiko Sumiyoshi (Canada) - (USA)
Pages: 640 pages
Finished: Oct. 10, 2010
First Published: (2007,2008 Japan) Sept. 28, 2010 English Trans.
Genre: manga, YA, fantasy
Is a person's life ... set in stone?
Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.
Reason for Reading: The publisher's summary had me very interested plus I liked the idea of reading a small mangas series all in one go.
Dare I say it? I think this is the best manga I have read to date. What a compelling, epic saga that covers many years through flashbacks and skipping forward into the future. When a person dies a white gate opens in which their soul goes through to the other side (which the story does not explore) but on rare occasions a black gate will open and these gates are not satisfied with just one soul, they will try to suck the souls out of the nearby living and often cause mass destruction such as fires to gather as many souls as possible. Just as rare is a certain breed of people who can see these gates the Mitedamashi; they are also the only ones who can close black gates. This is the story of Hijiri, a boy, with a Mitedamashi guardian who grows to learn of his own special powers, his true background and his important role in the future. And I can't tell you anything else because it's just too exciting to find it out yourself as you read.
From the copyright dates, and some on-line searching, it looks like the individual volumes of this series were never published in English before, making this all-in-one edition the first English publication of a most awesome trilogy. Most manga series go on for several up to infinity volumes, so it is a real pleasure to sit down and read a series from start to finish, knowing when it ends, that really is the end. This story becomes very deep and without going into any detail it ends up questioning life and death. Do people who fear death so much have a right to put an end to death? If we could stop death, would that be ethical? Would it be good for us as human beings? Would we really want to live forever? When you think about forever do you really take into account how long forever actually is??
A truly brilliant story that had me glued to my seat, kept me turning the pages and had me finishing the book over the course of a day. The characters are all well-developed with pasts and certain things that motivate them to act and behave the way they do. Any character is worthy of being favoured by a reader and I think each will have their fans. Of course I liked Hijiri, the main character. So many people messed around with his life and yet he never stops caring and trusting. He starts off as a troublesome, mouthy little kid and grows to become a worthy leader. I also liked Michizane, a boy whose childhood was emotionally abusive and he is still not treated well, though it is through no fault of his own that he is not liked. He has an attitude to cover himself from being hurt and unfortunately often becomes the victim. But Hijiri befriends him right away (against his will) and eventually Michizine allows himself to care and trust. There are no long drawn out battle scenes, no s*x, no gory violence. What you do get for the Teen rating is the mild swear words (d@mn and h3ll) and after non-graphic kill scenes a spatter of blood or blood on hands, etc.
I can't help but sound like I'm gushing, as I really did love this book and highly recommend it to fantasy manga fans or those who enjoy stories dealing with souls and death.