The wheel-spinning is over and vol. 8 finds this series returning to its usual standard of quality. This standard usually involved a lot of heartbreak, and that’s exceptionally true here. It starts with Shiva’s disappearance at the end of the previous volume being resolved in short order while also causing Teacher to come to a realization. A realization that tells him how to save Shiva without killing anyone. His actions here have unexpected complications that eventually lead to the girl being captured by the humans from the Inside. While they believe that sacrificing Shiva will bring an end to the curse that has ravaged their land, that particular duty has fallen on their king. He’s a frail and sickly man who was born to power and has never swung a sword with any conviction, or so they say. With the fate of his kingdom resting on his actions, it’s possible that he will finally find a reason to use his sword.
Teacher’s big choice here drives the volume and I will not spoil it here. I will say that mangaka Nagabe fully realizes its heartbreaking potential as we see Shiva slowly recognizes the consequences of what her guardian has done in order to save her. Dwelling upon that for a whole volume would’ve been unnecessarily depressing, so the girl’s capture by the Insiders manages to function as a perversely successful attempt to focus the reader’s attention elsewhere. I’m not sure I’d ever see the day where child sacrifice was used as a narrative diversion, but Nagabe manages it here. I did like that the Insiders weren’t presented as the kind of frothingly evil fanatics that you might have expected. Yes they want to sacrifice this girl. Only it’s because they can’t see any other way to escape their fate. You may not be able to sympathize with them, but you’ll understand them a bit more here. More understanding would be good in the future too, if only to offer further distraction from the awful implications of the volume’s final pages.