The Girl from the Other Side tells the story of a strangely bitter recluse who has to care for a precocious young girl OKAY SERIOUSLY IS THERE LIKE A NAME FOR THIS GENRE OR SOMETHING I SWEAR TO KIRSTIE ALLEY.
Yes, it’s another entry in the “Braddy Really Wishes He Was a Single Dad” series, last exemplified by Sweetness and Lightning. I’m genuinely not sure why manga seems to like this trope so much, but I’m super grateful that they do. These books are consistently some of my favorite comics, and The Girl from the Other Side is no exception.
Of course, The Girl from the Other Side differs from those other books, which tend to be saccharine slice-of-life adventures about embracing the wonderful mysteries of life, by being a tight, tense horror story.
Our (whom I’ll call Teacher, as I genuinely don’t remember if it has another name) is some sort of demon/monster thing called an Outsider. By contrast, his ward – Shiva – is an Insider, who is stuck in the forests of the Outside until her aunt comes to claim her. Insiders cannot touch Outsiders, lest they be cursed to become Outsiders themselves. Teacher helps Shiva navigate the forest and tries to keep her safe… all while knowing, somehow, that Shiva’s aunt isn’t coming for her.
The first two volumes carry an “all ages” recommendation on their covers, which genuinely surprises me. The first volume ends with one of the tensest moments I can remember in comics: Shiva, convinced her aunt is nearby, wanders deeper into the forest to bring her an umbrella. Meanwhile, soldiers from Inside have come into the forest seeking a demon in the shape of a little girl and have strict orders to kill her on sight.
Then this happens:
I legit lost my mind when I turned to this page. The Girl from the Other Side is already one of the most beautiful manga I’ve ever read, with a distinct style that reminds me more of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind comic than, say, this nonsense. I already adored the scratchy backgrounds, the almost impressionistic rendering of all the major characters… but the picture of a small girl innocently carrying a damaged umbrella past the armed soldiers searching for her to kill her scared me more than just about anything in fiction.
Oh, and the second volume shows Teacher gruesomely hacking another Outsider to pieces with an axes. It takes until volume 3 for the age rating to get corrected to “teen.”
Truthfully, I’m not sure the story in The Girl from the Other Side is all that novel. As I’ve said, there are a million “cute young girl” stories out there for The Girl from the Other Side to draw on. In addition, it’s pretty explicitly riding the coattails of another highly successful manga about a supernatural being serving as mentor to a human girl. In the end, though, I’m not sure how much all that matters. The craft on display in The Girl from the Other Side is enough to have me hooked: masterfully executed tension, beautiful art, and a chilling atmosphere.
Also, I’m still waiting to figure out what the significance of the Irish part of the title is. So I’m at least hooked until that becomes more apparent.