The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún Review

This is a very unique manga title right from the jump although you could probably guess that from the cover. After all it looks like a bit of an abstract title that’s rather dark but with the kid on it you also think of something like Yotsuba. Ultimately I would consider this to be a slice of life for the most part but it’s set in an apocalyptic future so you always feel like there is some danger around the corner. As the series goes on we get some more answers and plotlines to switch things up as well.

The manga starts by introducing us to a young girl named Shiva who is all on her own. Right off the bat you can tell that there are a lot of questions here. Why is this little girl all by herself in the middle of nowhere? Well, a monster appears and says that her aunt will be back to pick her up later. Okay…..this sounds tricky but Shiva is on board. She calls the monster “Teacher” and that will be how he’s referred to for the rest of the series. Her aunt appears but does not look very good to say the least. Shiva and Teacher must now survive by themselves in this desolate world.

I’ll quickly throw in some of the lore now. While more is explained later on, I think it’s best to learn most of the twists first hand so I’ll drop you in with that volume 1 knowledge. The world as we know it is in ruins. Humanity is alive but they’re effectively on the brink and like Attack on Titan, they just live within the walls. The “Other Side” is the rest of the world which is occupied by fierce monsters. These monsters are like trees and immune to conventional firepower. They just don’t seem to die. They aren’t incredibly powerful, you can eventually just stab them to pieces since they don’t regenerate. (Being immortal without regeneration is truly a burden)

The reason the humans don’t just go and exterminate them is due to the sheer numbers of monsters and how dangerous that is. If a monster makes contact with you for even an instant, then you become a monster as well. It’s similar to what happens when a vampire bites you or a zombie makes contact with you. So humans live on their own and let the Outside be as it may. Why Shiva is on the outside is another mystery. Additionally, the monsters all appear mindless and are unable to communicate verbally but Teacher is able to without any issues. Unfortunately he has no memories so he isn’t able to answer any questions directly. In that way both characters are in the dark.

So for a while the two just live out life the best they can. Shiva is still quite young and just having someone to watch over her makes the kid happy. They do their best to make pies, learn how to do daily chores, and go for walks. The whole time it is difficult for Teacher though since they can’t make contact. Every task is infinitely harder whether it’s cooking, cleaning, or just walking around. If his hand so much as grazes her then it could be all over. This is where I’d make the comparison to something like Yotsuba because each chapter would have some new adventure.

The comparison does end there though because of the danger. You’re not going to see big monsters running around in that series after all. This is not an action series but there are some fights that show up now and again. The humans will occasionally try to get Shiva whether it be to “Save” her from Teacher or to take her out. This is definitely one of those series where the humans don’t look very good though so you will not be rooting for them here. If anything you’re just hoping that the monsters can wipe them out and quick. There aren’t ultimately any big winners here though because either way the world is already doomed.

Not surprisingly, with the world in ruins there are definitely some religious themes here on the human’s side. They talk about prophecies and are fairly down the rabbit hole here. Unfortunately most of them are crazy and the only ones who don’t subscribe to this are not really in a position to stop the bigshots. One of the Bishops/Popes looks good in the end as he finally makes the right move before it was too late. Most of the others want to preserve the status quo and fulfill their prophecies even if it means murdering a small child. This is exactly why you root for the monsters half the time.

Also, the monsters get more sympathetic moments than the humans. The series starts to get really abstract towards the end but we learn more about the creatures, their goals, and what they’re doing here. You don’t get all of the answers but as these monsters are emotionless, they don’t really mean any harm. They even come in handy and end up being helpful a few times. You would much rather have them at your back than the humans.

Teacher is also the best character here by far. He does have his moments where he loses his way or gets discouraged but if Shiva’s in danger then you can count on him to help. Part of why Teacher isn’t always sure of what to do is because he does think it would be best if Shiva could find a nice human to raise her. As a monster he just doesn’t know if he’s up to the job and it doesn’t help that you will have the occasional human try to make him feel worse about this as well. In that sense it’s hard for him to come to terms with the situation even up through the very end of the series.

It’s also tough being a tree monster. He gets attacked by humans quite a few times and can’t always win. Once you knock him down then it’s hard to keep on fighting which seems to be a weakness for the whole species. There are some bird creatures but they seem to have much lower durability as a result so you win some and you lose some. The battles are a fun change of pace when they do happen. The humans always tend to try and win with pure numbers so expect a lot of gang tactics there. They know that they can’t beat the monsters 1 on 1.

For Shiva, well she’s a little kid so there’s not much to her. She’s nice enough and does her best to try to take things in stride. At first she’s sad and confused but gradually gets used to being with Teacher. Shiva is certainly put through a lot of tough ordeals and doesn’t let any of them break her so that’s a credit to her character. Not the most interesting character but she’s not bad.

The artwork is not really my thing though. It’s very detailed which is good but with the colors and shading it just doesn’t feel as easy to read as some of the others. It’s certainly not a bright style and some pages can take you a little longer to read as a result since you aren’t sure of exactly what is happening. It does help the manga be a little longer though. It’s atmospheric so I can see how the style matches the story but I would call it one of the weaker art styles. The fights and events would be enhanced further with a more traditional look. We do get some very powerful shots either way though as the monsters blend into the darkness.

“Fun” might not sound like the right adjective here, but I had a good time with the manga. I didn’t care for the ending though. It was the wrong way to go about it if you ask me. There’s a lot going on here conceptually as the characters have to tackle a lot but in the end this just wasn’t the satisfying ending I was hoping for. It’s not exactly upbeat and while the series itself may not have been upbeat, I think it would have been a good idea as the adventure came to a close. This one felt more tragic than anything.

You always got the feeling that it might go this way though even if you were hoping for a different ending. Any look at the volumes or artwork within them and you get the feeling that while things are happy now, they could change at any moment. I think that’s all part of the atmosphere that the series built up. It’s something that is hard to capture in a manga so props there and the artwork is a big part of it. I guess I’d think of it as indie artwork. It’s like in a movie that’s made by an independent studio or a game like Undertale. The artstyle, filming angles, and everything about them are meant to let you know upfront that something bad could happen at any point even if things seem happy.

As a result the series is usually tense for the characters and it even happens a few times during the story. Teacher might be playing with Shiva one moment and then she’s gone the next. Was she kidnapped, is she walking somewhere, did she get lost? As a tree his senses aren’t the best and with danger around every corner he is always concerned. As the reader you also don’t know what happened to her most times so you have to wait it out with him as he tries to locate her.

Due to the nature of the series there isn’t a lot of replay value here. It’s the kind of title you read through once to see how it plays out and ends but otherwise there isn’t a lot of reason to go back. It’s very low key and usually you would build up the replay value through comedy or a lot of mystery plotlines to counter that. This one doesn’t have any real comedy like that and for the suspense, that’s never really the focus. There are plot twists and lore in the series but it never plays out like an active mystery in that sense. There is a lot of interesting things that you could do with this world like seeing how the people still operate and more on logistics but since the series is focused on Shiva and Teacher, they never really get into that.

A prequel could be interesting although it would need to be handled carefully. With this world working like the medieval times, I could see the human side being rather gritty if we focused on it. Seeing more in depth how this all started would be fun but I could also see fans not being thrilled about it since that’s never what this series was all about. That doesn’t need to stop the prequel though, I always say that even if a prequel or sequel doesn’t turn out well, it shouldn’t impact the original product. Feelings tend to vary there but that’s my stance at least.

The cast is rather small besides Shiva and Teacher. There is the aunt as I mentioned as well as the Pope, random soldiers, and the other monsters. Some of these characters do get a bit of a roll but as the whole series is shrouded in mystery I won’t go too far into that. For the monster side, they tend to have a lot of grand dialogue so you want to listen carefully to understand the implications of what they’re saying. It’s usually all roundabout and meant to really make you think. This is a series where it is absolutely best to go in blind. It can be a bit of a slow burner so if you go in already knowing the full plot elements then that may feel even more so. If you’re here for the slice of life elements, then it won’t be a concern since those can’t be hurt by spoilers. There’s a good amount of both so whether you’re here for the story or the happy adventures then you should be in a good spot.

Overall, The Girl from the Other Side is a pretty interesting series. I don’t think it ever maximizes how good it could have been since it really sticks to focusing on Shiva and Teacher. It’s all very atmospheric and mysterious with what’s going on here but more of a direct plot as the heroes uncover conspiracies or something could have helped. Maybe give Shiva a time skip so she’s old enough to fight and then you turn this into an action series? None of this is what the title was going for though and ultimately it still managed to be a good title. Not everything has to be the next all time great and this is a very unique story which should be enough to get a lot of fans in. If you’re looking for a series where everything always seems “off” and the heroes have to survive while learning more about the environment and who is around them, then this is a good pick. After all, a world filled with monsters already seems rather deadly.

Overall 6/10

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