Its tranquil surface hides dark depths.
Title: Siúil, a Rún: The Girl from the Other Side (Totsukuni no Shoujo)
Publisher: MAG Garden Corporation (JP), Seven Seas (US)
Serialized in: Monthly Comic Blade
Translation: Adrienne Beck
Original Release Date: January 10, 2017
Long ago, there was a God of Light and a God of Darkness. The darkness teased the light and eventually the light retaliated, turning the God of Darkness into a cursed being, one that would harm the God of Light’s own people. And thus the divide between Insiders, humans, and Outsiders, vaguely humanoid, ink-black creatures without mouths, came to be. To be touched by an Outsider is to be cursed; with that, an Outsider called “Teacher” is very carefully taking care of a young human girl named Shiva.
On the surface this is what this “tranquil fairy tale about those human and inhuman” seems to be about, but the backstory is so couched in fable and myth that perhaps it’s best not to take the story at its word just yet. There certainly is a divide between humans, who live inside walled cities and villages, and the distinctly animalistic looking Outsiders, and it’s one where the humans are very distrustful. Shiva is a cheerful young child, but even she accepts that she can never touch Teacher or she’ll be cursed. While it’s clear this warning has been drilled into her head, is this curse a real thing? When Shiva was abandoned she was left with a note, “This little child is suspected of carrying the curse. She’s been sentenced to death. The truth is, there is no trace of the curse upon her…”. A passing human solider recalls the execution of nearly a hundred people on the mere suspicion of carrying the curse. But this simply doesn’t all add up; if “Only a truly evil god would unleash it” and if humans really are “Insiders,” doesn’t that suggest that a piece of information is missing here?
Given this backstory of death and murder, it’s a little odd that this isn’t the main focus of Siúil, a Rún but it isn’t. These certainly are events, possibly even facts of life, that will heavily influence Shiva and Teacher’s relationship, but their story is one of an adult raising a child. Teacher isn’t gendered so far, although they dress in masculine clothing so the story might technically fit under “man arrives in unusual circumstances to raise a young girl by himself” and Shiva really is a sweet girl. The series’ obvious fantasy setting does immediately set it apart from other, thematically similar series, as does Nagabe’s art style. Nagabe’s art is very sketchy and looks more like a pen and ink drawing than a manga (there’s nary a screen tone to be seen in the entire volume). This is a case of art and story complimenting each other well, for a story that approaches a fairy tale of violence and caring in an unusual way it makes sense that the art would stand out as well.
Siúil, a Rún slyly hides many questions amongst the pages of this first volume but does so without making the reader feel lost. Who knows if Shiva and Teacher will continue to live a peaceful existence, with Shiva marked for death by any human who may come across her and also being an alluring target for any other Outsiders they might meet. But one may hope that their quiet life of tea parties and stories will get to continue for at least a little longer.