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September 22, 2010

Bento Bako Lite: Grand Guignol Orchestra vol. 1

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: Grand Guignol Orchestra
Author: Kaori Yuki (Angel Sanctuary)
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 1 (of 5), $9.99
Vintage: 2009 by Hakusensha in Japan, October 5, 2010 by Viz Media
Genre: Zombies, supernatural horror, comedy, drama

Grand Guignol Orchestra is Kaori Yuki’s (Angel Sanctuary, Godchild, Fairy Cube) newest series, launching in America early this October (in time for Halloween!).  The manga maintains Yuki’s gothic sensibilities, and tosses in a massive zombie-like infestation for good measure.  In the land of Grand Guignol Orchestra, a virus has spread throughout the land.  Known as the Guignol Virus, it turns those it infects into blood thirsty, zombie-like dolls.  Traveling this dangerous land is a group of royal musicians called the Grand Orchestra, led by the androgynous Lucille.  Lucille, the singer of the group, is joined by the trigger happy violinist Kohaku, and the quiet cellist Gwindel (who carts around an adorable little hedgehog).  Members of the Grand Orchestra have the power to quell and destroy those infected by the guignol virus through holy music.

The volume is divided up into two complete story lines.  The crew starts out by visiting a town that is nearly overrun by guignols.  They have been called there by the town’s ruling lord, Lord Heliodor, but the townspeople, including the lord’s son, Eles, are not happy to see them.  Their town was overrun by guignols when Eles’s sister, Celes, played their mother’s quartz piano, turning the town’s children into guignols, and causing the death of many citizens, including Eles’s mother and sister.  As Lucille and his partners get ready for a purifying performance, they discover many of the town’s buried secrets.  Taking a liking to Eles, Lucille invites the child to play the piano in his orchestra, helping him escape the destruction of his home town.  With Eles now accompanying them as an official member, the group sets off on another journey, and ends up at the estate of Duke Nepheline Red Beryl.  Initially attacked by the Duke’s bodyguard, Spinel, they are invited into the estate when Nepheline takes a shine to Lucille, believing him to be a songstress.  Something sinister lurks within Nepheline’s home, however, and it won’t be an easy journey for the danger-magnet members of Lucille’s orchestra.  Along the way, Eles will discover some new things about his traveling companions, and about the rulers of the land in which they live.

Kaori Yuki has written another interesting story with Grand Guignol Orchestra.  Another beautifully drawn, bizarre tale, with fascinating characters.  Eles has his troubles, and though Lucille is the main character, he takes the center stage quite often.  However, I’m not sure where he’ll go; his biggest secrets are already revealed, and he quickly becomes an observer as well as the moral center of the group, and a voice of support for Lucille, who seems to dwell in darkness.  Not that this role isn’t needed; without Eles, the orchestra is a group of violent and greedy madmen.  Eles is certainly a calming agent.  Lucille carries his role as leader of this motley crew very well, though it’s suggested that his fellows aren’t exactly there of their own free will.  Regardless, there does exist an almost familial relationship between Lucille, Kohaku, and Gwindel.  They quarrel endlessly, like over who gets to read the map and navigate for driver Gwindel.  Kohaku mostly argues about when he gets to use his guns; he’d like to use them in every situation, but Lucille prefers a little more tact from time to time.  Kohaku’s second delight is laughing over Lucille’s ability to be constantly mistaken as a woman.  Gwindel is almost completely silent, but manages some profound speeches when he does open his mouth.  His calm demeanor can be misleading, however, as he gets scarily violent in an instant, particularly when his pet hedgehog is in danger.  Both men seem to hold Lucille in contempt and admiration, which will surely make for some interesting interaction in the volumes to come.

There are plenty of secrets to unravel in the series’ short run, and Yuki typically doesn’t disappoint in this regard.  The origin of the guignol virus, Lucille’s past, the reason why the three musicians travel together, Eles’s future, the search for a cure, and a mysterious figure that appears on the last page of the volume.  And this volume had its own share of secrets and revelations in each individual story present in its pages – Eles’s true identity, a new strain of the guignol virus, the appearance of another royal singer.  Sounds like another fantastic Kaori Yuki series to me.

By the way, if Kaori Yuki’s name sounds familiar to you, about a year ago I wrote about one of her art books, The Art of Angel Sanctuary: Angel Cage.


Review copy provided by Viz Media.