Halloween has historically been one of my least participatory seasonal events. As a kid growing up in apartment buildings where door-to-door candy grabbing was mostly prohibited and as a person who’s shied away from most things horror-related, there’s just wasn’t a lot there for me to enjoy. This year I figured I’d get into the spirit of things and let myself be conned by my friends into playing through a certain “Doki Doki Literature Club” and write about it as my seasonally appropriate post-of-the-month, but after an entirely voluntary sleep-ness night, I decided not to re-experience that disturbing mess again through writing. So instead I’ll be celebrating this day originally dedicated to remembering the dead by writing about the charming ghost stories of Kieli.
Kieli is a series of light novels written by Yukako Kabei and it follows the life of the titular Kieli, a girl who can see spirits. Set in a world much like ours but with a very different, but similarly war-ridden history, Kieli’s journey begins after meeting a man incapable of dying named Harvey and his ghost-in-a-radio companion. The novels follow the adventures of this make-shift group as they escape the organization (the world’s Church) looking to eliminate all those considered to be ‘Undying’. While this is the main driving force for their adventures, their escape from the Church really only served to move them forward throughout their world thus far. Much like many other travel-type narratives, the essence of Kieli isn’t found within the overarching plotline, instead, it’s found in the small stories of those left behind that the group encounters throughout their journey.
Either through circumstance or more often because of Kieli curiosity, we come to meet all sorts of ghosts and spirits. In such a war-torn world, the number of vengeful, sometimes violent ghosts that appear in the series is not outside our expectation but spirits of this nature are far outnumbered by the kinder ghosts shown to us throughout the novels. These are ghosts still bound to the earth not because of a need for retribution but out of regret for their early passing, obligation to their loved ones, habit, or simply choice. We’re introduced to a clown who’s still trying to improve his act even after death to put smiles on his now non-existent audience’s faces. We meet a train conductor who is soul bound to the train that he died in, patrolling forever to prevent the same accident from happening again. Friends and family remain post-mortem to keep their close ones safe and accompanied until they become strong enough to move on.
Throughout the series, we meet and eventually say goodbye to these kind ghosts leaving us on a warm but melancholic note as the gang move onwards on their journey. And even though it’s happened so often this kind of heartfelt conclusion to the individual stories doesn’t come as an expectation from the start. Meeting these apparitions through the eyes of Kieli is frightening, sad, or more often both. Their introductions are framed similarly to our expectations of death and the dead, only to be subverted when we spend a little more time with them. And this is precisely what I love so much about these stories in Kieli. In spite of our expectations of what it means to remain after death, Kieli proposes that equally as often or even more so, people can remain for the sake of others or to continue pursuing a positive goal, not simply for vengeance or hatred.
The world of Kieli is just now coming back from the brink of death. All those alive now have grown up surrounded by the dead, and this includes our main cast. The existence of these kinder ghosts and the effect they have in moving our characters forward show off a sort of inherent optimism in defiance of the downcast atmosphere of the world as a whole – a quality that I love to see in any narrative.
I can’t say that this is a very spooky novel but if it sounded interesting at all for you, I’d highly recommend picking it up.
Thanks for reading,