Title: Grand Guignol Orchestra
Author: Kaori Yuki
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 5 (final), $9.99
Vintage: 2010 by Hakusensha, December 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Gothic horror, drama, zombies
It’s time for the final showdown between Lucille and his sister Queen Gemsilica. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to Lucille (though known to the reader), at the end of the previous volume, Eles switched out the Black Oratorio for Lucille’s personal blank hymnal. The powerful Black Oratorio, that Lucille spent much of his life searching for, is the only known thing that can end the Queen’s reign of terror and destroy the guignol virus. Eles, upset at Lucille’s apparent lack of faith in her, switched the books when she learned the group was going to leave her behind, perhaps to go to their deaths. At the last moment, she regretted her decision, but it was too late. Lucille, Kohaku, and Gwindel left with the blank hymnal, leaving Eles behind with Spinel. However, soon after they departed, Berthier arrived and captured Eles for his own purposes. The fifth and final volume opens up with some immediate revelations, including Morion’s back story, and the events that took place the night Cordie became the new Queen. We learn how Morion became Lucille and Cordie’s playmate, chosen from among several other more talented candidates. Cordie took an immediate shine to him, and Morion fell in love at first sight, pledging to protect her from anything and everything, no matter what. Morion’s sins are grave indeed, as it was he who led Cordie to the original Queen’s chamber where she was turned into the new Queen instead of Lucille. He was misled by an ancient and twisted evil, but he carries his sins to drastic lengths in protecting Cordie, obeying her every order, and never leaving her side. That Lucille ran away from Cordie’s pain and suffering (as Morion sees it, at least) is what drives his anger toward the singer, particularly as Cordie is so fixated on her brother. It’s a tragic story manipulated by someone close to them, someone who has made everyone his personal dolls. As Lucille hurries to save his sister, he is interrupted by Berthier, who has a tied up Eles at his side. The brokenhearted Berthier, who feels betrayed by Lucille from long ago, wants Lucille for himself, and wants him to suffer. As Lucille pulls out what he believes to be the Black Oratorio, he realizes that he has once again made a mistake with a person he cares deeply for. However, even without the legendary hymnal, Lucille decides to give the performance of his life in an effort to end his sister’s curse, and sings lullaby from their childhood. Lucille at last reveals the truth to Cordie, and through his music and his words is able to draw his sister out with her own inner strength. As Cordie comes to her senses, the true mastermind is finally revealed. Years and years ago, an obsessed king created the guignol virus to keep his precious daughter alive, and has since spent his time manipulating the royal house in an effort to find his true and perfect Queen. Lucille pleads with Berthier to play the Black Oratorio and end everything, knowing that the song could destroy all of them along with the virus, as it is the virus that has kept many of them together (quite literally) and given them their powers. Berthier hands the hymnal over to Eles, and as the girl plays the powerful score, the castle crumbles around them, and the virus begins to unravel. Lucille urges Eles to escape, as the rest of them remain behind, leaving Eles to go out and face a new world without the guignol virus alone.
The second half of this volume is dedicated to a short story called “Camelot Garden.” In a strange school located in the middle of an empty abyss, a hierarchy of students is built around the positions of a deck of cards, with each suit taking on a specific role, led by the students holding the rank of face cards. Into that world falls a boy named Ryu, whose only memory is that he is searching for a girl named Clarabel. In this world, however, Clarabel is a boy, and has no memory of Ryu. Ryu quickly learns that he’s woken up in a twisted and dangerous world ruled by a strict set of laws. He falls in with the King of Spades, an older boy named Gideon, who gives him the position of Six of Spades. This confusing world is ruled by the Hearts, who have the power to enact the law and dole out punishment to those who break it. This punishment usually comes in the form of being shoved off the building in an abyss…which results not in the death of the student, but the return of that student minus their memories. There appears to be no real escape from this world, except for true death, which only comes at the hands of the enigmatic Joker, who is somehow bound to Clarabel. As Ryu’s presence threatens to destroy their world, Clarabel betrays him in an effort to restore peace. Ryu, undeterred, tears down the reality of the world to reveal the truth. It’s a heartbreaking little story, and it’s not a bad read, but it does feel rushed, which results in some confusion. The concept of using a deck of cards to form a social ranking system is interesting and used well, but doesn’t really combine well with the Arthurian undertones of the story. Personally, I would have rather spent more time with the Grand Guignol characters, and seen “Camelot Garden” drawn out a bit more, maybe into its own one-shot volume.
I wouldn’t exactly say the final chapters of Grand Guignol were rushed, but there were some things that didn’t get used as much as I would have liked. Most of the relationships in the story come across clearly, despite how little they’re really touched upon. I mean outside the main four, like Spinel, Morion, Cook, Carnelian, and Berthier. Their roles are clear, but they get so little page time, and I really would have enjoyed seeing them explored in more depth. Kaori Yuki handles their development very well, especially given their limited page time, so that’s not an issue. Some readers probably prefer a point to point development rather than having lots of exposition in between, but personally I would have liked even just a little bit more, especially with Morion and Berthier, whose roles are actually fairly important. In the main cast, Kohaku has some special abilities that aren’t fully used or explained. We have known for a while that his right eye causes him pain whenever guignols are near, but in this final volume, he mentions that it sometimes causes him to see things. It’s not really expanded upon at all, though there is a suggestion that the things he sees that he doesn’t want to see have something to do with Lucille. This is something I really would have liked to see used more, or at least explained in more detail. As it is, it just sort of feels tossed in there. There’s also the guignol virus itself, the origin of which is still muddled to me. A couple of methods are suggested throughout the series, but it was never clear to me what actually caused it. Lucille talks about Duke Rhodonite having developed and released the virus, though they later find that his virus originated from Le Sénat. However, Lucille later acts like he and Cordie are the ones who released it, though given the state of their mother, that seems impossible. Well, to be specific, the literal origin of the virus, who created it, is revealed. My problem is that it doesn’t seem like the widespread virus among the populace has been around for as long as the virus itself, and that’s what confuses me; I’m not clear on the time line, basically. Other than that, this volume wraps everything up very well. After the main event, there are a few pages dedicated to a sort of “where are they now.” While it doesn’t go into detail on the minor characters, though they are shown, its focus on our main quartet ends things on a heartwarming note. The art is up to standard, of course, though my favorite thing was getting to see an older and feminine Eles, who grows into a beautiful young lady. A solid wrap up of an entertaining series.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.