Manga: Alpi the Soul Sender

January 7, 2024 · 0 comments

By Shelley Pallis.

Alpi is a wandering exorcist (or “Soul Sender”), although she is not very good at it. She has only taken on the dangerous job in an attempt to track down her missing parents, who disappeared some years earlier. But much of the appeal in “Rona’s” manga comes from the quirky way this young manga artist frames her fantasy environment – with scenes rich in costumes and architecture like nothing on Earth, and “spirits” that often loom over the landscape like diseased kaiju.

In Rona’s world, spirits are powerful, animist presences that form the very essence of a particular place – the source of the wind that powers the mills or the gold that fills the mines, godlike embodiments of local colour that turn into deadly magical infestations if they sicken or perish and their souls go unrelease. Alpi and “Soul Senders” like her are the equivalent of environmental trouble-shooters, charged with finding ways to set up their spells and tools so that the hauntings can be exorcised, the spirits can be released, and the world returned to rights.

They face logistical problems – how to draw a magic circle around a creature floating in a lake? – as well as physical ones. The effort of performing a spirit “valediction” is so taxing to the health and well-being of a Soul Sender that they put their own lives at risk. In a medieval equivalent of human resource management, Rona occasionally stops her story to discuss cases of exorcist burn-out and self-care, asking if it is better to flirt with death and let down desperate townsfolk, or to endure their complaints and sniping while undertaking vital rest and recuperation.

This 2018 manga is a welcome addition to the stable at Titan Comics, and a fitting companion piece to the similarly magical accountancies of the same publisher’s The Witch of Thistle Castle. Alpi’s spells and cantrips break into moments of lyrical prose-poetry, sharply contrasted with the colloquial bickering and concerns of her travels and encounters with everyday folk. Throughout this light-hearted magical manga there are hints of hidden depths and wider stories, a real sense that Rona’s world is a wide, wide sandbox with much for her characters, and readers, still to discover.

Repeatedly, there is a sense of the spirit world and humanity living in an uneasy and often-broken truce, with much of the magical pollution incidents Alpi had to fix turning out to be the results of human folly or greed, while the spirits themselves are often gentle giants, uncomprehending of why they are being harnessed to human industry. A gentle melancholy suffuses the whole storyline, as if we are watching the last days of magic, before science tramples it into dust forever.

Alpi the Soul Sender is released by Titan Comics.

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