Momo is a shinigami (a Grim Reaper), the messenger of death. Unlike the scary dark cloaked man holding a sickle, she is draped in gleaming white—her gown, sickle, hair and all. Accompanied by a black cat named Daniel, Momo takes up a mission to convey human souls to the Great Beyond. She appears before dying people and relieves them from their mortal fears, but she also comforts those who suffer the anguish of losing loved ones in tragedies.
When I first read about the so called Light Novels on MangaHelpers.com, I got curious. After my friends death I started to read and like (young adult) novels dealing with death, so this light novel sounded interesting enough to order it.
The book is smaller than a manga volume, and it has nice white, thin paper. It's a pleasure to hold, this book. The cover looks like a regular manga, but it is 'western-orientated'; no reading from the back of the book to the front.
Inside there are first full colour illustrations, and there are some black and white illustrations. The font and the font size
are not too big and not too small. There is a short explanation of some Japanese words used in this novel, and before the book starts there is an introduction of more common known Japanese words like ~kun and ~sensei. The author also has included an afterword, and there are two pages of advertisement for the publishing company.
The book starts and ends with a poem, and consists of four stories which can be read separately. The longest story has 100 pages, and the shortest 30. In each story a kid or a teenager meets Momo, the girl like Shinigami with her black cat Daniel. This cat is her helper, it talks and it has demon wings. Momo isn't an ordinary 'soul reaper'; she cares about people and wants to make lives better. This results in meddling with people's lifes, and often she's a cry baby, according to Daniel.
The second story especially tug at my heart strings. It was the story of a young boy who had friended a girl classmate who was suffering a disease. One day they found a kitten, hid it because they couldn't keep pets at home, and took care of it. But one day the boy played with other friends, the girl had to take care of the kitten herself, got exhausted and died. The boy felt so much guilt that Momo interfered. I liked it. It didn't make me cry, but it was soothing.
The other three stories also balance on the creepy side. The characters don't exactly have the happy careless childhood, but I would give away too much spoilers if I told more about it. What this book does is telling the tales of four young lives. It's tale telling, it's not expanding the story with details which aren't necessary, which also give the stories a bit of an unfinished taste. You get the details necessary for the tale, but only when it's time you need to know them. But in the end, because of that the book doesn't leave a big impression. It's the tales which impressed, not the actual writing.
The book has a nice Japanese feeling because we read about the Japanese school system, there's bowing and respect, there are shrines and bento's. I loved to read something none-manga which still gave me a 'manga feeling'. So I wasn't surprised that after this light novel was published the manga and the anime appeared. I've been peaking at the manga, but the introduction of the manga gives away spoilers for Momo. And what's nice of this Light Novel is that in each story you get to know a bit more about this young shinigami. She's different than the other shinigami, who are dressed in black and grim.
I came to conclude that a Light Novel basically is a Young Adult novel. I've really enjoyed it so much that I've also ordered (and read) the second volume of "Ballad of a Shinigami". It seems the series isn't translated beyond this second volume, which is a real pity.