A girl, precocious and young, wanders through the woods and into empty villages with her guardian—but this adult is no normal man. “Teacher,” as Shiva calls him, is an “outsider,” a tall, black creature with a beak like an eagle and long horns protruding from his head. In this world, it is taught that outsiders are evil beings, whose touch curses a human to become like them.
Fresh off a rewatch of The Ancient Magus Bride, this manga struck me as something similar, and in some ways it is, particularly with its focus on a gentle, magical beast who cares for a younger girl. The protagonists, Shiva and Teacher, share an innocence and kindness that sets them apart from those around them. Most of the action centers around these two and only them in the opening chapters, establishing a rich relationship reminiscent of other properties involving guardians and children, like Usagi Drop, while beginning to weave a world that’s rich in its own right.
It’s really that world that takes center stage in volume one of The Girl From the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún, which reads more like a fable than manga, which is perhaps intentional. The title of the story feels Celtic in origin, and the setting is vaguely European, proper for a story about witch hunts. Common knowledge of witch hunts for North American audiences today may be centered on Salem, fantasy stories, and the contemporary reworking of the term. Many readers may not be aware of persecution during the Renaissance, where thousands were executed in Europe for being witches. This manga takes that idea and runs with it, creating a surprising atmosphere—instead of dwelling on the creepiness of the outsiders (which I wish the artwork would have done more of), it centers on the injustice and paranoia from the “insiders,” allowing for the possibility a tale that’s rich thematically and set apart from the series I previously mentioned.
The volume also ends on an intriguing image, one I won’t ruin here, but both that conclusion and the unusual maturity of the story beg readers to pick up volume two. And surely it’ll be worth investing more time in, as this series is unlike anything else you’re likely now reading.
BENEATH THE TANGLES RECOMMENDS THE GIRL FROM THE OTHER SIDE: SIÚIL A RÚN (VOL. 1)