Ninety percent of our lives are determined by our fate, and our fates are determined by our "souls." But every now and then, something goes wrong and the souls of those who have met an untimely fate also pollute their environs, drawing more souls into a vicious circle of ill fate. Sakurai and Amano are an odd-couple team who have been hired to deal with the problems that arise from these tainted souls and have been tasked with finding those who are heading to an early grave to either prevent them from dying or collect their livingstones before they do further damage.
Livingstone is a collaboration manga between Maekawa Tomohiro, the author and Kataoka Jinsei, the artist. You might have known Kataoka's work from before: Eureka Seven.
First lemme explain what is the 'living-stone'. Living stone is the soul stone of a human being, which weight approximately 30 grams according to Professor Duncan who did an experiment to determine the weight of human soul.
This manga tells a story of two guys, Shozo Sakurai and Amano. Their job is to hunt and prevent people from their unplanned/unnatural death or otherwise to recover the "living-stone". To make sure that the next person will not suffers the same fate as the person who is about to die, because "unexpected death" will damage a human soul, they have to ensure that the living stone will not be in pieces. In other words, their job is to "save" the livingstone, preserving its proper shape and "kill" the body that's left behind in this world.
Besides that, they also have to clean the stain where "unexpected death" occurred and collect the pieces of livingstone. This is because the place where those death happened, if not cleaned, will carry negative energy that will lead to other unplanned accidents.
Sakurai is the compassionate person between the two. He will strive his best to save the victim. The irony is he always ends up doing the killing part which takes quite a toll on himself. Sakurai has the power to see the memory of the soul once he has the soul stone in his hand. It was a pain and most often than not, a gruesome experience.
Amano is the polar opporsite of Sakurai because he has no soul to begin with. He has no memories or feelings either which usually gets him into trouble. He has a stone installed inside of him that attracts the living stone. Amano lives solely to do his job and has the power to see the stains. He is also kinda immortal.
Amano and Sakurai provide a comedic relief once in a while with their antics that makes me enjoy this manga. Amano said some of the funniest lines with Sakurai delivering the punch lines. Definitely not going to put this one on hold :3read more
Livingstone is a very interesting manga. Its premise is one you could easily imagine being interesting and engaging and it makes you wonder what kind of characters live in this and of world and what their lives are like. Good for Livingstone, it had the brilliant artist of Deadman Wonderland there to sell most of its world through tone and expressive artwork. Especially since a lot of the execution and non-main characters is pretty average.
Alright then, let's start then, shall we?
Livingstone follows Sakurai and Amano, two soul-collectors who go about either cleaning up destroyed souls or convincing people to agree to let the duo kill them to save their souls after the soul has veered from its pre-destined course in that body.
The art is pretty freaking awesome. It's the same style as Deadman Wonderland, of course the art is freaking awesome. While Deadman Wonderland had flaws of its own, the art was always top-notch, and this manga is no different. The art is expressive and interesting and easily communicates whatever tone the manga is going for in that moment. The character's personalities and emotions are always on full display (for Sakurai and Amano at least).
Story (6): The premise itself is incredibly interesting (as mentioned above, so I'm not going more into it here), the main problem with the story is the pacing and the beginning vs the end (some minor spoilers maybe, probably not though). So, at the beginning, it seems like it's a purely episodic series with each chapter or two being about Amano and Sakurai dealing with a new soul that's weird off track or someone who's trying to kill themselves. This part of the story gets incredibly repetitive with lines of dialogue being pretty much repeated (Sakurai says 'the soul has strayed from its plan' SO MANY TIMES THOUGH) and sometimes the individual stories are pretty ridiculous (there's literally a story about a crow's soul) but the stories are usually entertaining. The problem with the ending of the story is that the manga takes the last chapter of volume three and the entirety of volume four and makes them entirely into a backstory/character study of Amano. Honestly, this is what Livingstone should have been all along. Not just with Amano, but with every character. This manga should have been maybe 7 or 8 volumes long and each volume would be a character study of someone who Amano and Sakurai are trying to help and the influence that Amano and Sakurai have on their lives (there's only one story that delivers on this at all) and only once or twice do Amano and Sakurai have to resort to actually killing someone they're helping. Then, at the end, they should have focused on Amano and SAKURAI'S influence on Amano and the bond they've formed and how Amano's decision near the end affected Sakurai emotionally. Okay, this section is too long, moving on.
The two main characters are the only really interesting ones. Sakurai is a polite, reserved, focused, emotional man who has way too much sympathy for someone in his profession of reading the memories of dead people who have veered off course. Amano is a spunky, disobedient, almost deadpan dead teenager who has a replacement soul to keep him alive so he can help Sakurai find the souls that have veered off course. These two have very good chemistry and a well-developed relationship. Often, the only reason a story has any emotional impact is because one of our two main characters has some connection to the theme or even the exact circumstance and their emotions regarding the scenario are enough to induce emotions in the reader.
Overall (6): While I have definitely been criticizing this manga a lot, I actually really enjoyed it. It was an interesting and entertaining read and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoyed manga like Deadman Wonderland or enjoys dark episodic stories. I'd say check it out if you think you'd like it! The final volume is probably worth reading all of it, even if you don't like the first three (which I did, obviously). But the first three volumes are kind of needed to get the full impact of the final one, so.. check it out!