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Today I will begin a new life that has light in it.
Some years ago, a girl killed herself. She was only discovered when one of the neighbors reported a strange smell. When the police arrived, she had been dead for quite some time. The body had decomposed and was unidentifiable. The local paper ran a very small article about the event, which was quickly forgotten. Before long, it was as if this girl had never been alive.
Daikichi has lost his job and place to live. On the verge of homelessness, he ends up moving into an old, mostly abandoned and allegedly haunted apartment building. When he moves in, he meets Kana, a cheerful girl who is already there. As it turns out, she's been there ever since she killed herself in that apartment all those years ago. At first, Kana is overjoyed at having someone to talk to - and buy beer; boy did she miss beer. Daikichi is in denial that she could really be a ghost, but after running, quite literally, through her, he is forced to accept the fact. After a few beers, and a few more beers for her, Daikichi asks her about her death.
Kana doesn't remember who she was, or why she killed herself. She has only vague memories about the event. It was at sunset on a summer night. The only thing she remembers thinking was "I don't want to die at night." Nighttime scared her. So she sat down at a window and, while watching the sunset, stabbed herself in the chest. "Many times." The last thing she remembers seeing is her blood spurting out, sparkling in the light of the sunset, which seemed to her had set the room on fire. She thought "How beautiful" ... and died.
After Kana tells him this, Daikichi ponders if, given his circumstances, he wouldn't do something similar. Kana immediately tells him to never think that. No matter what, he must keep on living. A ghost telling him to live makes Daikichi laugh and he tells her he's sure he will be ok, at least for that night. They continue talking, and when he reaches out to point to Kana's chest where she should have had scars from her suicide, they are both surprised to find he is able to physically touch her. For a moment his hand is resting on her unscarred, soft breast. ("HEY! Ecchi!") That night they make love, and Kana remembers how it feels to be alive. In the morning, everything seems normal and Daikichi wonders if Kana might not have disappeared. He lifts the blankets and she peeks out, opens her eyes and says, "Good morning~" And they begin to fall crazily, deeply in love with each other.
As the story unfolds, local convenience store manager Inagawa Goro (39; soon to be 40; unmarried; occupation: convenience store manager; hobby: the supernatural) becomes more and more interested in Daikichi and Kana, looking for the supernatural experience he's wished for since he was a child. Later, we meet Utako, another "abandoned" girl who moves into the apartment with barely more than the clothes on her back and a guitar. With only a few expository lines from Daikichi, her vague backstory suddenly changes from "homeless" to horrifying.
My Lovely Ghost Kana is a beautifully written and illustrated story from Tanaka Yutaka spanning a year of Kana and Daikichi's lives in three volumes. Somewhere between Slice of Life and Magical Girlfriend, it's a story that deals with two people, their love for each other, and how their love carries them from their difficult pasts into a bright and hopeful future.
The overall story veers between Kana and Daikichi's growing relationship, her antics as a Genki Girl Magical Girlfriend, the occasional hints of the despair behind her death, quite a few Tear Jerker moments of heartwarming happiness and how Kana's life-after-death touches nearly everyone she meets for the better as she learns that it's never too late to be happy, never too late to love, never too late to live.
This manga provides examples of:
- Accidental Pervert - Poor Utako. The first couple times she takes a shower in the apartment Daikichi either yanks her towel away, thinking she's a ghost, or she manages to fall on top of him, naked, when the shower breaks.
- And then towards the end, Kana and Daikichi are lying out on the balcony, drowsing after This and That when Kana notices Utako walking up to the apartments. She pokes Daikichi to say hi, who jumps up startled, then waves at Utako -- stark naked from the balcony rail.
- In one scene, Inagawa is talking with Daikichi in the store, while Kana is standing (invisibly) in front of him apologizing to Dakichi for just having caused stuff to fall of the shelves. Inagawa makes a gesture with his hands of how he wishes he could just reach out and grasp something of the supernatural, and, well, Kana is standing right there.
- Angst - You'd think given the premise, but not even close.
- Kana doesn't care about her tragic past because she's happy with Daikichi now. She tells Daikichi that her prior life doesn't really matter much anymore when he asks if she ever wonders who she was.
- Likewise Daikichi is too busy thinking about his future with Kana to dwell on the unfortunate circumstances that brought him to this point in his life. Early on, he mentioned that he'd rather not talk about it, and he never does, except to eventually admit to himself that he's thankful for those terrible events because he never would have met Kana otherwise.
- Utako's only-hinted-at back story sounds horrifying, but, like Daikichi, she never mentions it. Instead she gets inspiration from her new friends to keep going forward with her music and by the end she is working on recording her own CD.
- Inagawa sports the most angst of anyone, being depressed over his mundane life compared to his love of the occult. However his date with Kana gives him the "paranormal" experience he's wanted his whole life and is able to return to his daily routine satisfied and happy.
- Barbie Doll Anatomy- Despite how she died, Kana has lovely, normal breasts. (Which we get to see often.) The sex scenes are drawn discreetly enough that we wouldn't be able to see anything else anyway. On the very few occasions where we would, there's nothing to see.
- Beat Panel - After Utako moves in, but before Kana and Daikichi know she is there, Kana has been hearing strange noises in the apartments:
Kana: (serious) Don't be too shocked... but one comes out... in this building...
Daikichi: One what?
Kana: A ghost!
sound of dog barking in the distance
Daikichi: ... You don't say. I already knew that.
- Blush Sticker - Most characters, but Kana most frequently, especially when she is really happy.
- Book Ends - The story opens and closes in the spring, one year apart, with the Sakura outside the apartment in full bloom. The first volume itself begins and ends very similarly, with Daikichi coming to the convenience store to buy a few things and going home, where Kana welcomes him energetically.
- Bottle Fairy - Other than Dakichi, there's not much more that Kana likes more than a cold beer. Although it's more like a mortal pleasure she misses, and it never seems to affect her. It becomes a regular ritual for Kana and Daikichi to share a six-pack at the end of a day. (Although she does her best to get straight to "drinking beer" whenever possible.)
- Boy Meets Ghost
- Broken Bird - The first indication that Utako is in the apartments is sobbing from the showers. Her backstory is only hinted at but she has clearly been through some kind of hell. Kana and Daikichi's friendship helps her get better.
- Cherry Blossoms - There's a big tree in the apartment's yard as mentioned above.
- Cute Ghost Girl - Kana, of course.
- Dark and Troubled Past - Everyone, in spades. How none of them let it affect them is a big part of how heartwarming the story is.
- Driven to Suicide - Kana, tragically was driven to kill herself for reasons she doesn't remember. Daikichi was on the verge until he met Kana, as was Utako until she became friends with Kana and Daikichi.
- Ecchi - Kana calls Daikichi this on more than one occasion when he is feeling frisky. She's not exactly innocent herself.
- Explicit Content - When two young adults are this much in love, it's perfectly natural for them to have sex. The story includes those moments.
- Fan Service - It's certainly more Ecchi than fanservicey, but Kana and Utako are nice to look at. Utako gets what comes as close to straightforward Fan Service at the beginning of the chapter where she is in the shower.
- Furo Scene - An entire chapter is devoted to one of Dakichi and Kana's regular visits to a local bathhouse. Most of it involves Kana very sweetly expressing her appreciation for how many different kinds of bodies there are, from the ones who have seen a lot of life, to the brand new.
- Genki Girl - Kana again.
- Although when Utako first comes to their apartment to meet her, she is surprisingly overcome by an extreme case of shyness. Seeing the normally bubbly, cheerful Kana shyly peeking out from behind the curtain as Utako comes in somehow makes her even more utterly adorable.
- Genre Busting - A Heartwarming, Tear-Jerking, Slice of Life Porn with Plot love story that puts the titular Magical Girlfriend's suicide at the beginning, featuring characters who all have Dark And Troubled Pasts that are utterly ignored as the story deconstructs the Angst right the hell out of them, while celebrating The Power of Love without a trace of Narm. And it's Better Than It Sounds. What.
- Ghost Amnesia - Kana remembers some details from the day she took her life, but not why she did it, which is probably for the best. She's not even sure of how her name was spelled. At the end of the series, she still hasn't remembered any important details from before her death, and that's fine.
- Ghost Lights - A good indication of Kana's mood as there are more of them when she is happy and make little 'pop' noises when she is especially happy.
- Also used amusingly when Daikichi finds an old "dead" cellphone and he and Kana discover that he can use it to keep in touch with her. A stylized ghost light is her chat icon and one also takes place of the service icon.
- Ghostly Chill - Kana can chill a beer in her cleavage. Daikichi claims she has a warmth to her, but it's difficult to detect (though he observes that she gets warmer when they're having sex.)
- Hypercompetent Sidekick - Yaguchi is constantly having to keep Inagawa - her boss - in line and pay attention to the store rather than Daikichi, as well as frequently being subjected to his monologues about the supernatural.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming - Chapters are titled "Life 1", "Life 2"...
- Invisible to Adults - Children, animals and in one case an elderly lady, are the only ones who ever perceive Kana other than Daikichi. The closer her relationship is with a person, the closer they seem to get to being able to interact with her in some direct way.
- It's assumed but never actually spelled out that Utako eventually is able to talk directly with Kana. Although she still can't see her except barely when she tries to take pictures of Kana and Daikichi on her cellphone.
- Circumvented by the "dead" cellphone Daikichi finds which she can call, send texts to and is capable of taking her picture. Inagawa uses it to interact with Kana on their date.
- Lucky Charms Title - Please call him "Pure ☆ Sensei." If you leave out the "☆ it will make him cry.
- Luminescent Blush - Most characters at some point, but especially on Kana, when she's really happy, has been drinking or doing other things.
- Magical Girlfriend - Kana, once more, of the Cute Ghost Girl type.
- Meaningful Name - Utako can mean "song child".
- Amano Daikichi's full name can mean "luck from heaven." He's been about as down on his luck as you can get when the story starts.
- Meganekko - Utako
- Mood Whiplash - The whole series is a story about love and living, but to point out how important love is and why life is worth living, there are the ocasional scenes that hammer it home by showing you the complete opposite. Stylistically even, the serious sides of the story - especially dialog regarding Kana's death - are written in an almost poetic style, contrasting with the more prosaic writing style of the rest.
- Near the end of the chapter with Inagawa's date with Kana, he wonders if he might not have crossed paths with Kana ... before ... and that if he had only been a little nicer to her at the time ... then maybe ...
- The chapter "Kana and Mom" starts out very silly, then suddenly turns around and kicks you in the gut - hard - with a very poignant, very human moment, and will leave you in tears at the end.
- The chapter "Under The Stars" has got to set some kind of record, abruptly changing the mood seven times.
- No Indoor Voice - At first, Utako belongs to the school of thought that if she can't see or hear Kana, she should speak loudly so Kana can hear her.
- Nothing Is Scarier - Invoked in a very unique fashion towards the end of the first volume. Five pages of pure black with only a short paragraph of text on two of them. In context, it is a scary, tear-inducing moment of anxiety before finding out which sort of ending is coming - happy, sad, or downright devastating.
- The Power of Love - As good a reason as any for why Daikichi is the only person who can touch Kana, much less see her. Kana loves absolutely everyone and it's the way her unconditional (and contagious) love for her friends overpowers their bitter histories, including her own, that is the core of the story.
- While it's never made explicit, it seems that Kana becomes warmer, more solid, and generally more "real" in proximity to someone who loves her, and the more they love her, the more solid she gets. To a certain degree, this even applies with Goro.
- Scenery Porn - Not so much as to distract from the story but still a few. The view of the ocean from the top of the ferris wheel and the scenes at the Grave for Wandering Spirits are notable.
- Signature Style - Tanaka-san's poetic, minimalist, haiku-like narration segments, along with severe Mood Whiplash.
- Shower Scene - Daikichi and Kana first encounter Utako face-to-face in the shower. Another chapter opens with Utako showering, which leads to...
- Skinship Grope - ...Kana sneaking up on Utako and playfully grabbing her from behind.
- Slice of Life - As much as there are Magical Girlfriend moments, there are ordinary days as well. Kana likes beer ("Angelheart Draft" is a favorite) and watching baseball on TV. She loves spicy food and is always trying to sneak extra hot spices into their food against Daikichi's wishes. Daikichi gets a job and starts fixing up the apartment with Kana's help. They go out to the amusement park, shopping, eating, and the only difference between them and any other young couple is that she is a ghost. And in the end, even that's not important.
- Undeath Always Ends - Averted in a literal sense, applied in a metaphorical one. Kana is still a ghost at the end of the story, but being with Daikichi makes her feel alive again.
- Unwanted Harem / Love Triangle - The introduction of Utako looks like a classic setup for this, especially with a shower-based Accidental Pervert scene soon after she moves in. It's put to rest right away when Kana starts smacking Daikichi for it and Utako immediately deduces that Kana is a ghost. She is overjoyed at finally meeting Daikichi's girlfriend to the bemused delight of both Daikichi and Kana.