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Posted on: June 21, 2012 2:21 pm by small image

Ballad of a Shinigami (AKA Shinigami no Ballad) is a manga based on a series of light novels by K-Ske Hasegawa, though from what I understand there is also a 6-episode anime adaptation and a 12-episode live drama. There were twelve novels in Japan, the first two of which were translated and released in English. My post will focus on the three-volume manga series.

The main character of the series is Momo, a shinigami whose duty it is to send bring the souls of the dying to the other side. She does not relish her calling, and indeed feels remorse from chapter to chapter. She is always accompanied by a winged cat named Daniel, who can talk.

Though Momo plays a role in every chapter, the series is not about her–in fact we learn pretty much nothing about her. (Whether this is the case for the entire light novel series, I wouldn’t know. But suffice to say that while she is present in each story, she generally doesn’t do too much.) Instead, the series is essentially a series of short stories, where each chapter focuses on a different set of characters. These protagonists are generally children in their teens (or a bit younger at times), and they all must deal with either: A) the prospect of dying, or B) the death of a loved one.

I have to hand it to the author for being willing to write stories dealing with this subject. It’s not exactly an easy thing to market, since these vignettes aren’t what anyone would call fun. There are bits of comedy, romance, and drama interspersed throughout the tales, but the series in general is very much a tragedy. Or rather, perhaps it is better to call it a hopeful tragedy. Though many of the stories are as sad as you would expect, there are several that are quite heartwarming as well. And I feel that in most every chapter, there is at least a positive note embedded into the story’s framework. Ballad of a Shinigami pulls it off well in my opinion because these positive notes don’t feel tacked on, so much as there is just so much that makes up a relationship between characters that it’s not such a simple matter of death = pure sadness for all involved.

It’s not what I’d call a deep series, but it certainly gives the reader some things to think about. Ballad of a Shinigami doesn’t go into specifics regarding what the afterlife entails, and even the protagonists of each story don’t give the subject too much consideration. The stories instead focus on what it means to lose someone, how one is to cope with loss, and how characters can come to support one another amidst their life struggles.

All in all it’s a sweet, tender set of stories that I think is worth checking out for anyone interested in a manga with a lot of emotion, and doesn’t mind following a series of tales involving different characters each chapter (though I will note there are a couple exceptions, which effectively manages to show how characters get by following their past tragedies). Some stories I felt were better than others, but there are a few that really got to me… I think my favorite story was the one uniquely told from the viewpoint of a young girl’s cat, who wishes to comfort her amidst her unfortunate circumstances. It’s so sweet! TT.TT

I suggest giving the series a try. In the meantime, I’ll probably look into watching the short anime series, and perhaps get my hands on one of the translated light novels.