My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I struggled with what to rate this as parts of it are very different and interesting and parts were annoying as heck. I found this on a best manga of 2016 list and I didn't think the art was nearly as good as the reviewer did. It's very detailed but I was disturbed by Grey's oft-Gumby like appearance (yes, yes I know he's a ghost).
It opens with the Madame Curator of the Black Museum (sort of the X-Files museum of Scotland Yard in at the turn of the 20th century) and she meets the infamous Grey Ghost of Drury Lane. Grey has haunted the royal theater there for years, the spirit of a professional duelist.
He tells her the story of how he went from enjoying theater to being the potential killer in his own drama when a young woman asks him to kill her. He finds her too intriguing to kill directly but promises to kill her once she 'falls into complete despair.' (and that's one of the annoying parts, he's usually sensible then suddenly goes over the top when he wants her to despair. I hate that over the top cliche).
The young lady turns out be the wealthy Florence Nightingale, yes that Florence, the lady of the Lamp. If you've never read her story, it's one worth reading. The author has done a fair amount of historical research, I'll give it that. One of the reasons Florence is despairing is she can see these monstrous ghosts attached to people, eidolons. Grey explains that every human has them and they bring out/feed on bad emotions and bad behaviors. They cause many of our conflicts.
Florence has a huge conflict with her parents. She is a wealthy Victorian girl meant for marriage and improving the family name. She believes God has spoken to her, to find her calling and she believes that is helping the sick and injured. She even attended a school for nursing on the continent but in England and in many other places, nurses at this time were literally camp followers and whores, good for mostly just cleaning up the squalid hospitals and feeding/bathing patients. In the real world Florence transformed nursing into what it has become today at high cost to her.
In the manga, we follow Florence and Grey as she takes her first faltering steps into making nursing a respectable and useful career. Grey is there both protecting her from others (so he can kill her later) and bearing witness to her deeds as she saves a horrible hospital from itself and later following her to the Crimean war.
However, as Florence can see the eidolons, she is particularly vulnerable to them and they are constantly shredding her. And this is literally the most annoying part of the entire volume. Every time she's confronted and begins to falter a little, her vulnerability is shown by drawing her naked and tearing her nude body apart. It seems exploitive rather than a good metaphor. And it happens A lot.
As I said above, the author has obviously done a ton of research historically (several footnotes throughout, though how much of that was in the original and how much is from the English translation team I'm not sure). Kudos for weaving D'Eon du Beaumont into the story (though her breasts are a bit much especially when I already knew D'Eon's secret).
I would like to see more. Oh and this manga is one of the hard cover double (or maybe even triple) volumes.
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