Song of the Hanging Sky 1 and 2

Song of the Hanging Sky volumes 1 and 2 by Toriko Gin (amazon)

In the remote mountains a doctor named Jack has taken refuge from war in an isolated cabin with only his dog Gustave for company. Jack spends his days writing letters to a woman named Natalie. One day he finds an injured bird-boy in the snow, a survivor from an ancient race of bird people who are almost extinct. Doctor Jack fixes the boy up and fruitlessly attempts to communicate with him. Other members of the tribe come to take the boy away, but when he returns to his tribe they find out that his soul has changed from contact with the human and his name is now the word “Hello”. The Native American influenced bird-people aren’t passive nomads. When one of their kind is spotted by a human, they turn to murder to protect the secret of their existence. Hello runs back to visit Jack with his friend Wolf. When he realizes that Jack’s life is threatened he confronts his elders. Jack’s house is destroyed and the bird people take the human back to their village. As Jack learns about the customs of the bird people, they closely observe him in order to learn more about the humans who control the world.

The second volume explores some of the back story for the characters, detailing what happened to the bird people and explaining why they fear a prophecy of destruction as well as showing the horrors of war in the human world.

The art for Song of the Hanging Sky has a subtle hazy quality that contributes to the dark folk tale quality of the work. This series is complex with plenty of moral ambiguity and philosophical exploration as two very different cultures collide. It reminded me a little bit of Planetes, which has a similar wistful philosophical tone even though the subject matter is entirely different.

This review was based on PDFs provided by the publisher, so I can’t comment on the quality of the physical books, but I expect that the production quality would be fine as it is for other GoComi series. Song of the Hanging Sky might be under the radar of most manga readers but it is well worth seeking out for those of you who enjoy thoughtful, character based fantasy stories. This is one of the most unique manga that I’ve read in a long time.