The Ghost and The Lady, Vol. 1
Florence Nightingale is perhaps best known as the mother of modern nursing. In the early 19th century she pioneered ideas such as cleanliness and advocated for better nursing care. The Ghost and The Lady, Vol. 1, introduces readers to an untold tale of Nightingale’s life. That of her relationship with Grey, the ghost of a duelist who has promised to take her life when she finally gives in to despair! From Kazuhiro Fujita, the creator of Ushio and Tora comes the first in this two volume retelling of the life of Florence Nightingale!
With The Ghost and The Lady, Vol. 1, Kazuhiro Fujita weaves the biographical tale of the Nightingale’s life with that of the fictional duelist by named Grey. It’s mashes together fact and fantasy, adding the supernatural elements from Grey’s tale to the biographical story of one of the 19th centuries most influential personages.
Unfortunately, the mashup doesn’t quite click. The integration of the biographical aspects and the supernatural aspects never really feels smooth and the presence of the Grey feels like an intrusion on what would otherwise be a pretty solid story about Florence Nightingale. His fights with eidolons, while engaging, ultimately detract from the emotion and drama of Nightingale’s conflicts and decisions in those sequences. However, when the story focuses on Grey and delves into his past, it’s a pretty enjoyable and compelling read in its own right, even with the supernatural aspects. It’s when Fujita tries to bring Grey’s story and Nightingale’s story together that things start to feel awkward and forced.
Kazuhiro Fujita’s artwork is pretty fantastic, with nice detailed backgrounds which help reinforce the time and setting. When Nightingale visits an early war hospital, the grime, blood and suffering is tangible and lends a fantastic sense of weight to her story. This is another area where the merging of the two worlds and stories hurts. The human drama and suffering is fantastic and compelling, but then you have this goofy, almost cartoonish Grey hanging around cackling and being rendered differently from everything else and it just breaks the mood. Admittedly the decision to render him differently is nice touch as it reinforces his otherness, but on a whole his inclusion simply undercuts everything and is a distraction. His action sequences and clashes with the eidolons are fine, but the fights aren’t the point and they’re just further distractions from what’s going on. The eidolon designs are really wonderful, though. They’re weird fleshy creatures with bits of objects, like arrows or trumpets, protruding from them. Each one is different as they’re meant to be manifestations of resentment, guilt and other negative emotions unique to each individual.
What all this means is that The Ghost and The Lady, Vol. 1 is an enjoyable and engaging read, but one that feels a bit schizophrenic. It really feels like two separate stories that someone tried to mash together, each one being very good and enjoyable on it’s own, but when forced together they both suffer. It’s still a good read, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that if each story had been its own thing they wold have been that much more enjoyable.
The Ghost and The Lady, Vol. 1 is available now from Kodansha Comics. Review copy provided by the publisher.