Vol. 1 left off with an effective cliffhanger that had another Outsider grabbing little girl Shiva’s face as her guardian Outsider, Teacher, walked in. What follows is unusual for the series so far in that it’s a fight scene and a surprisingly violent one at that, delivering blood and dismemberment at one point. It’s also all the more suspenseful because of the awkwardness the Outsider and Teacher display in their fighting technique. Yet a cooler head, Shiva’s, eventually prevails and this eventually leads to a walk through the forest where other Outsiders are encountered and Teacher dives into a lake to meet their Mother. Meanwhile, back on the Inside, the humans make their move to capture Shiva in order to lift the curse that plagues them.
If you were hoping that “The Girl From the Other Side” would become less inscrutable with its second volume, then I’m going to have to disappoint you here. I was hoping that Teacher’s encounter with these other Outsiders and their Mother would provide some explanation as to their nature, but I was left with only more questions. It turns out that Teacher is… different from other Outsiders and may be in some way responsible for the curse they carry? Mangaka Nagabe’s efforts to create an air of mystery in regards to the Outsiders feels needlessly obfuscative at this point.
What keeps me reading in spite of this is the series’ impeccable sense of style. “Gritty Storybook” may not be the best way to describe its look, but it trades fully in the darkness inherent in many fairy tales without ever fully tipping over into outright nightmare. Take a look at the fantastic cover to this volume to see what I mean. Even though Teacher wants to do right by Shiva, his actions don’t always bear that out. So the sinister feeling you get from seeing that cover is very warranted. Still, I’d be willing to bet that living in the woods with Teacher represents a far better fate for the little girl compared to what her fellow humans have in mind for her.