Lucille and the orchestra encounter a town overrun with the worst kind of audience: the living dead! Well, not really. They're people who have been turned into doll-like zombies. And they are definitely not a crowd to take lightly. Can a group of roving musicians use their skills to calm the beasts? Or is this curtains for the Grand Orchestra?!
Victorian-Chic zombies being slaughtered by musicians. This is not the sort of thing one would expect from the queen of gothic tragedy Kaori Yuki, but she manages to make this goofy sounding plot work splendidly.
Grand Guignol is the latest of her installments, and it does not disappoint. Smart, emotional, and elegant, this manga is definitely the best take on the new trend of zombie manga; and most certainly the most original. The plot is a bit fragmented and isn't clearly started, but eventually develops itself slowly around the characters that are introduced.
The zombies in Grand Guignol are interesting because they are also somewhat
tied in with plot elements of "magic". Those afflicted by the virus can be temporarily cured through forbidden music and sounds. Different human villains find different ways of manipulating the Guignols (zombies) into performing tasks for them. Sometimes, human characters find themselves unable to let go of their afflicted and the focus turns into the madness that stems out of seeing your loved ones turn into monsters. the monster and zombie threat almost presents itself as a secondary to the threat of human error and human nature.
The characters are well developed and interesting to follow, though unfortunately the first volume focuses so much on only two of these characters that one might pick it up and find themselves unhappy with the presentation of the rest of the cast. This changes as the series picks up. In true Kaori Yuki fashion, a major character trait is androgyny and gender issues. Besides two of the five main characters appearing to be a gender they are not (and one that could very well be considered transgendered), some characters with vocal abilities also have the ability to throw their voice and bend it to sound like a man or a woman. Yuki approaches these gender issues in a very mature way and gracefully avoids turning it into a political or overdramatized plot device.
The art is drop dead gorgeous. I have to admit, I am absolutely giddy for Kaori Yuki's art style and it's never let me down. While her art for Grand Guignol is far more simplistic than some of her earlier works, it suits the story well and is incredibly appealing to the eye.
The one single drawback to the series is that it's a bit detailed for such a simplistic plot line, and can be a bit of a messy read at times. It is a great manga and this slight issue can easily be overlooked. It's a very refreshing read , especially for a shoujo manga, where school life romance cliches reign supreme.
I believe I saw the first ad for "Ningyou Kyuutei Gakudan" after just having finished "Ludwig Kakumei". Being a fan of Yuki Kaori for years and posessing most of her work it was clear to me that "Ningyou Kyuutei Gakudan" was a must-have!
A dream world, based on the 18th century France, which is haunted by doll-like zombies. I was pretty surprised by this scenario because it was really not typical for a Yuki Kaori Story. However somehow it works really good. Although I am really not a fan of zombie/epedemy/apocalypse - scenarios, I was thrilled by the idea of depicting the undead beings as
doll-like creatures, controlled by a mysterious virus one does neither know the source of nor how to fight it. An orchestra made of shady characters as kind of an anti-Guignol squad team was a fascinating thought - very hilarious at the beginning, but everyone who knows the power of music knows that this picture is not even that unrealistic! The focus of the story lies on the two main characters Lucille and Eles, their unique relationship and especially Lucille's dark past with may secrets to reveil.
It's Yuki Kaori goddammit! What else to say? :D She has this ability of creating each character with an unique spirit and look and her backgrounds are divine! What I love most about her art is her incredible eye for the details.
Yuki Kaori has a very personal relationship to her characters and you can cleary see that she gives every single one deep thoughts. Every character has his own, unique look, drive, passion, motives and past. Especially fascinating I found the constellation of this orchestra: Lucille, an incredibly beautiful man with a divine singing voice, with an obvious dark and mysterious past, who seems to have his own, secret ambition. Eles, a girl in disguise, who sees the world through the honest eyes of a child and feels of the orchestra as her family. And the two shady characters accompanying them, Kohaku, the bad-tempered violinist and gun freak as well as Gwindel, the silent, yet mysterious cellist who seems to hold a certain grudge against Lucille.
As known by her fans, Kaori Yuki gives the character's names a lot of thought. In Ningyou Kyuutei Gakudan every character bears the name of a gemstone, a semiprecious stone or a noble metal.
I can remember nagging my local book dealer: "WHEN COMES THE NEXT VOLUME?" At the day of release I would be in the book store to buy it and already read it while walking home (and occasionally running into strangers and lanterns). The second volume I bought at a convention and I sat down on a bench to read it at once! The story was so thrilling and I was so excited what secrets would be revealed that I couldn't stop reading!
Just like a good orchestra, a manga's storyline and characters must work together to form a good impression in the whole. This manga is one of Yuki Kaori's (many) masterpieces and definetely worth reading!