Livingstone by Tomohiro Maekawa
Manga, 4 volumes
This series was a breath of fresh air.
I read this manga series as part of Borrowathon and MangaReadathon (which is still ongoing). My friend lent it to me, meaning there was about a 50-50 chance I’d hate it or love it. Our tastes usually really overlap or do not at all. Luckily, this one was a winner.
This series takes place in a world where at the beginning of the 20th century, a doctor conducted some unethical experiments and found that when one dies under circumstances not ordained by fate, that their body weight changes by 30g at the moment of death, the weight of a human soul stone.
The manga follows two men whose job it is to make sure these soul stones stay on their destined paths, for when the body the stone is in veers off course, it could threaten or even shatter the stone. This means the manga deals with some heavy topics at times – suicide, murder included.
So, the premise alone was really neat. It kinda sounds like reincarnation, but not really. A soul stone is born and its path will lead it through the use of many human bodies. Once its current body dies according to plan, it moves onto the next until the stone itself becomes old enough to die. Of course of if the person its in currently commits a murder or a suicide, that soul stone’s vitality goes down, and if the trauma becomes too much, then the stone is shattered, permanently thrown off its course.
The two main characters – Sakarai and Amano, go around looking for stains, places where souls have veered off course, because locations where something went wrong once will lead to more souls getting sucked in and going off course as well. When they find a soul stone that has altered its path but is still able to be saved, they either help the human its in… or if there’s no hope left for the person but there is for the soul, they kill the human and help the soul along to its next destination.
Seriously, the concept of this series is amazing, I loved it!
Both Sakari and Amano are pretty interesting characters, though I felt that Amano ended up much more fleshed out than Sakarai did. That’s really the one flaw I found with this series – aside from the two main characters, pretty much all the side characters were flat. Some more than others for sure, but none of them really did anything for me.
This series played off a few myths about souls and did so really well. Like, the idea that one suffers jetlag when flying because a plane will take your body but your soul can’t keep up, so you get tired waiting for it to return fully to you. So that’s a good thing to think about with me having two upcoming plane trips. Thanks Livingstone, I’ll be sure to ductape my soul in.
I also feel that this series handled sensitive topics well – suicide was not glorified and it was dealt with in a sympathetic manner, the idea of self-identity was discussed thoroughly – are you your body or your soul? Where do your memories lie? What makes you you?
For a four volume long series, this got quite in depth about philosophy related to the questions above. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was quick, well drawn, easy to follow and entertaining – everything you need in a manga. I definitely recommend this one if you’re looking for something new to pick up.