As promised, a halloween-ish themed manga review! Soulless is an adaptation of Gail Carriger’s steampunk series, featuring art by Rem, and published by Yen Press as well as serialized in their online magazine Yen+.
Soulless centers around the adventures of Alexia Tarabotti, a spinster who lacks a soul. She lives in an England where Victoria is queen and science runs amok. There’s also vampires, werewolves, and ghosts, all of which are common knowledge to everyone.
I was hesitant about picking up Soulless since I really enjoyed the novels and manga adaptations can be pretty chancy (Infernal Devices). I was pleasantly surprised! I actually like the manga better than the novels.
There’s no need to be familiar with the world and characters of Soulless before diving into the manga, it does a good job of introducing the principal players and the world is pretty self-explanatory, but familiarity is rewarded. The depictions of the characters are faithful to their source (as far as I can remember anyway), and there’s the added bonus of Rem’s incredibly emotive facial expressions. All characters are given a wonderful range of emotions from goofy to serious.
Each collected volume of Soulless adapts one novel. I personally think it’s a bit brief of an adaptation, and there’s areas where the story appears…not forced, but awfully coincidental. The romance in volume 1 appears to just happen. I get the impression that Conall’s attraction to Alexia is supposed to be obvious before he kisses her, but it just passed right by me.
The best part of Soulless is the depiction of Alexia. In the novels, you’re basically given her point of view, and since she sees herself as a sassy independant woman, that’s the filter for the series. The manga has more of a third-person perspective so the fact that Alexia is unsure of herself and terribly vulnerable because of it really comes through strongly. On the other hand, the explanation of how ghosts, vampires, and werewolves exist is lacking. One of the most interesting aspects of the Soulless world is that souls apparently have quantity – if you have no soul, like Alexia, your touch turns immortals into mortals, and if you have an overabundance of soul, you can survive the change to be vampire or werewolf, or upon your death, you can become a ghost. I will say that with a limited page count, the best choices for this narrative were made.
Each volume tells a full story with lots of nice little background things happening to keep the reader’s interest. So far, I have volumes 1 and 2, and I’m looking forward to picking up volume 3 (releasing November 2013).
Soulless volumes 1 and 2 were purchased by me, for me. They are not review copies.