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Review: Grand Guignol Orchestra, vol. 1

The world has gone mad, with people infected by a virus which turns them into zombie dolls. There is one group who travels through the land fighting the zombies–The Grand Guignol Orchestra, led by the singer Lucille. But the members of the Orchestra each hide their own dark secrets, which may come back to haunt them.

Grand Guignol Orchestra, vol. 1
Kaori Yuki
Publisher Age Rating: OT/16+
VIZ Media, October 2010, ISBN 978-1-4215-3636-1
208 pages, $9.99

Yuki is known and loved for her convoluted, angst-filled Gothic horror manga series and Grand Guignol Orchestra is another dark addition to that legacy. The elements her fans adore are all there: beautiful characters, gender ambiguity, horror themes, blood and gore, and, of course, gorgeous costumes. Her plot in this, her newest work (released in Japan in 2009), is almost too complex and it requires readers to grab hold and hang on for a little while before they begin to get the threads of the story straight. But the interesting thing about Yuki’s work is that her stories are compelling enough to move things along even when they are confusing. Many plot points are not fully explained, which is okay since this is just the first volume and that means that readers are left wanting more. Even trying to discuss the characters is difficult without giving away the twists of the tale, but it is enough to know that they are ambiguous in all the senses of the word, but especially in their relative goodness. Yuki likes characters who are shades of gray.

Fans are also drawn to her almost decadent art. She loves details, especially flowing hair, ruffled collars, and haunted eyes. In an author’s note, she says that the setting is “…supposed to be…the Middle Ages (sort of), with a French air–not that you’d know it!” That last bit is certainly true. Instead of Middle Ages, the setting is Victorian-ish with anachronistic touches such as cars and school-girl/military uniforms. Just as the disparate plot elements slowly come together to form a coherent story, so do the odd bits of the setting. Yuki’s strength lies in atmosphere and here she uses that strength to its fullest.

This is a Gothic horror series, so there is blood and violence, as well as discussions of gender politics, all par for the course with Yuki’s other works. Nothing beyond the Older Teen/16+ rating, however, so libraries who have her other series (such as Godchild or Fairy Cube, both also published by VIZ) will want to pick up this one. Her fans will be thrilled at a new series from her and the combination of horror and humor and beautiful art is likely to make new fans as well.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © VIZ Media LLC.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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