Soulless: The Manga Book 1

Oh, my! What fun this was!

I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this frothy mix of Victorian supernaturalism and werewolf romance, since I’m not normally a fan of those kinds of books, or of manga adaptations of properties popular elsewhere. (Soulless is a spin-off of the five Parasol Protectorate novels by Gail Carriger.)

But this was just enjoyable escapism. Alexia is a preternatural, a human with the ability to turn supernatural creatures mortal when they touch her. She’s completely unrealistic for a Victorian with her attitude and fearlessness, but that’s what makes her such a great read today. She’s Buffy in more elaborate costumes, Bella if she wasn’t a drip, every young woman who feels trapped by convention but dreams of showing just how special and smart and powerful she can be. I appreciated seeing how much she chafed under her family’s dismissal of her as a spinster (unmarried at 26, can you imagine) and cheered for her standing up for herself. Plus, there’s a handsome, powerful, exotic, brawny guy for her to flirt with. Best of all, he likes her because of her spirits, not in spite of them.

Lord Maccon is the Scottish nobleman and pack chief she spars with, and in the classic form, their spats are a sign of how they care for each other. Lord Akeldama, meanwhile, is a flamboyant vampire hive leader. The dialogue is occasionally sparkling, as when Maccon is bemoaning to his second-in-command, who has correctly just advised him that groveling for forgiveness might be a good idea. “I am NOT a groveler!” shouts the Lord, to which the wiser assistant responds, “It is possible to learn many new and interesting skills in one’s lifetime.”

The art is gloriously indulgent, in a mood keeping with the tone of the story, with plenty of period costumes and emotional moments. About the only criticism I had was how very low (almost non-existent) the front of the heroine’s dress was during many scenes. It’s also clear, at times, just how much more mythology there is behind this story — mentions of the Bureau of Unnatural Registry and the social organizations of the vampires and werewolves and drones indicate rich background that isn’t always fully explained here. I didn’t ever feel lost, but it was apparent there was more going on that I didn’t know. That sense, that there’s more out there if I want to find out, is much preferred to the usual exposition-heavy text dumps, which this volume mercifully avoids.

You can find out more about the artist Rem here or at her blog. There are three volumes planned so far in the series. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

5 Comments

  1. I’m not much of a manga guy but I really like that cover art.

  2. I enjoyed this a lot. It is very light on exposition, it never explains what the BUR is for instance. But its a really fun supernatural romance and the art is pretty. I was intrigued enough to seek out the original Gail Carriger novels. They are supernatural, steampunk, action, romance (the first especially is a real bodice ripper) novels. The characters are adults, which is a nice change from the usual teen focused books. And the lead, Alexia, is as far from Bella as you can get. So I’d recommend getting the GN and if you like it go onto the novels.

  3. Jim Kosmicki

    I would also recommend the novels – there’s a lot of dross out there in the supernatural romance field, but these are sprightly and fun. To a certain extent, they are what Pride and Prejudice and Zombies tried to be – an attempt to take novels of the 19th century British upper class and meld them with another genre. I have read the first two and own the third, and will eventually continue reading the series once I get caught up on other reading and get to read for pleasure again.

  4. [...] adapting a supernatural mystery/romance novel series; I surprised myself by how much I enjoyed the first volume. Thermae Romae, in contrast, is an omnibus hardcover with one of those only-in-Japan stories about [...]

  5. [...] volume, adapting stories from the Parasol Protectorate novels by Gail Carriger, is just as much fun as the first one. Soulless: The Manga Book [...]

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