07-Ghost (vols. 1-4) by Yuki Amemiya and Yukino Ichihara, translated by Satsuki Yamashita
Since we’re talking four volumes here, allow me attempt to offer a set-up without too many spoilers.
“One thousand years ago,” a boy named Teito Klein (not sure of the kanji for ‘Teito,’ but his last name means “small” auf Deutsch – you’ll find many German-inspired references throughout) is about to reclaim his larger-than-life past. Assumed to be an enslaved orphan who is now an elite teen soldier of the Barsburg Empire, Teito is frequently haunted by mysterious images that bear little resemblance to the slave narrative he’s always been told. A loner at Barsburg’s military academy, Teito accepts (and returns) the devoted friendship of a gentle comrade, Mikage Celestine; depending on the original kanji (not included in the translated manga), ‘mikage,’ in Japanese, can mean ‘beautiful shadow’ – hold on to that etymology, as Mikage will always remain at Teito’s side.
Teito’s dream-like (nightmarish) flashbacks finally begin to make sense when he overhears the Barsburg leaders talking about him – their words trigger a violent memory, and he recognizes Ayanami, the Barsburg Imperial Army’s Chief of Staff, standing over a murdered body. In blind reaction, Teito attacks Ayanami, gets thrown into prison, but escapes with Mikage’s help. He’s rescued and taken to Barsburg Church in District 7 – the “District of God” – where the military cannot touch him. Something about the glorious sanctuary seems familiar … and thus Teito’s quest for the truth begins …
The epic battle of good vs. evil is on. Here’s what Teito initially learns: Seven Ghosts (hence the name) prevent the god of evil, Verloren (meaning ‘the lost’), from world domination. Two kingdoms battle for control, although one needs some major restoring. Three swashbuckling bishops (one of whom has a propensity for hiding porn, ahem) take turns nurturing, teaching, bullying (sort of comically) young Teito as he learns to control the power he never knew he had.
Given the multi-layered rules and engrossing history of this millenially-aged universe, 07-Ghosts is undoubtedly one of the most intricate series I’ve thus far encountered. Apparently slated for 17 total installments, have patience and pay close attention: the numerology and meaning of names alone are noteworthy brain-ticklers. It’s also one of the most graphically gorgeous manga; even when the characters are at rest, nearly every panel overflows with swirling movement (the religious robes alone are better than any haute couture). If you find you can’t wait for the translated paper and ink to hit Stateside, you might check out the subtitled anime which seems to be readily available online. Oh, the powers of google; ask and ye shall be answered.
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult
Published: 2005-2007 (Japan), 2012-2013 (United States)
© Yuki Amemiya and Yukino Ichihara
Original Japanese edition published by Ichijinsha, Inc., Japan