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by Hiromi Goto is a Down the Rabbit Hole Coming-of-Age Story
. There are three realms: the Realm of the Flesh, the Realm of the Spirit and Half World, a sort of purgatory where dead souls live out their traumas until they are ready to pass to the Realm of the Spirit. The realms were originally together, but got separated somehow. Melanie is a child born impossibly into Half World
. Her mother flees to the Realm of Flesh to raise Melanie. When her mother gets kidnapped by the sinister Mr. Glueskin, Melanie goes on a quest
to Half World to save her and the world
In 2012 a sequel called Darkest Light
was released, continuing several years after the first book. The protagonist themselves is a huge spoiler
for Half World
, so be prepared for unmarked spoilers.
Tropes shared in both books
- Anachronism Stew: Half World is a mash of various different time periods, with gas lamps beside neon lights, horse drawn wagons driving alongside cars, military tanks; all kinds of different architecture mashed together.
- An Arm and a Leg: A pinky must be bitten off to pay for passage between Half World and the Realm of Flesh.
- Many Half World Denizens are noted for missing limbs or other body parts.
- Black Blood: The Half Worlders have black blood because colour doesn't exist in Half World.
- Bittersweet Ending
- Body Horror: Oh so much.
- Cool Old Lady: Ms. Wei
- Dark and Troubled Past: Dang near everyone. It fits with the Central Theme about dealing with pain and trauma.
- Deliberately Monochrome: Half World is totally black and white because colours are used to dictate spirits and the living.
- Splash of Color: However, anyone alive, from the Realm of Flesh, will retain their colours and shine brightly in the greyness. Half Wolders become coloured when they become spirits.
- Driven to Suicide: Many Half Worlders are locked in perpetual suicide, like the woman in Half World jumping into the canal over and over again, or the people perpetually falling off buildings/stairwells in Darkest Light.
- Four Is Death: Door Four in the Cassier Connector leads to Half World, Mr. Glueskin's room is the fourth door on the penthouse level, and floor four of Mirages Hotel is how you get back to the portal to the Realm of Flesh. Ms. Wei explains this trope in Half World.
- Hell Hotel: the Mirages Hotel.
- Hope Spot: So many.
- Infant Immortality: Completely averted. There are children running around Half World, reliving their worst moments. Most prominent is the four girls from Darkest Light and the fact that Mr. Glueskin died when his father killed his mother while she was giving birth to him.
- Living Statue: the Gatekeeper.
- Mix-and-Match Critters: The Half World denizens. This include humans with animal part, animals with human parts and Planimal.
- Ravens and Crows: form a living bridge that connects the portal to Half World. Better run fast, or the birds will fly away and there's an long fall down...
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Tropes in Half World
- Alcoholic Parent: Fumiko starts to drink heavily when work becomes too much for her. Shinobu also drinks a lot and is drunk when Melanie meets him in Half World. She could smell the alcohol coming off him.
- And Now You Must Marry Me: Mr. Glueskin kidnaps Melanie's mom and announces they're going to get married, just to screw Melanie over.
- Big Bad: Mr. Glueskin.
- Big "NO!": Melanie on two occasions: the first when the wind almost sucks her through Door Four, and the second when Jade Rat is crushed.
- Bloodless Carnage: Deliberately invoked with Mr. Glueskin, who has no blood and is entirely made of glue.
- Bury Your Gays: Ms. Wei's lover, Nora Stein, was killed before the start of the story.
- Dem Bones: There are skeleton people at Mr. Glueskin's party.
- Disappeared Dad: Melanie's dad is not present for most of her life because he's being held hostage in Half World to ensure that her mom will return after 14 years.
- Driven to Suicide: Averted with Ms. Wei. After Nora Stein was killed, she deliberated suicide, but decided not to.
- Face Palm: Jade Rat does this a few times when it and Melanie meet for the first time.
- Funetik Aksent: The wallaby man speaks with one.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Mr. Glueskin.
- Inelegant Blubbering: Melanie does this a lot, and can you really blame her.
- Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: Melanie pretends to be a cleaning lady to get to Mr. Glueskin's hotel room.
- Kids Are Cruel: The story proper opens up with Melanie running from a group of bullies. Not only that, but she says that the school's sports team will be waiting for her if she returns to school.
- Like Great Ancestor, Like Far Descendant: Gao Zhen Xi and Ms. Wei are both archivists, and both rummage through their books in the same manner. Melanie gets deja vu watching Gao Zhen Xi, and sees facial traits shared by her and Ms. Wei.
- Psychopathic Man Child: Mr. Glueskin prances, sings childish chants and treats things like a game while threatening to flay someone and make them eat their own skin.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Jade Rat.
- Opera Gloves: Fumiko wears these for most of the story.
- Phone Call From The Dead: Melanie gets a phone call from Mr. Glueskin early in the story.
- Ravens and Crows: Crows follow Melanie around everywhere. Subverted in that the crows are her allies and eventually help her defeat the Big Bad.
- Rubber Man: Mr. Glueskin, with the added ability of being able to detach pieces of himself.
- White Hair, Black Heart: Mr. Glueskin.
Tropes in Darkest Light
- Amnesiac Dissonance: Gee used to be Mr. Glueskin, but he doesn't remember and grew up to be a much better person. Justified in that Mr. Glueskin was reverted to a baby, who grew up into Gee, so naturally he wouldn't know.
- An Arm and a Leg: Ilanna's arms and tongue were bitten off and eaten by eels.
- Ascended Extra: The eel-armed lady and bird-headed man from the first book, who were unnamed and extremely minor, are now named and the antagonists.
- The pile of rags that was offhandedly mentioned in Half World is now explained and serves as Foreshadowing.
- Big Bad: Ilanna and Karu. Subverted with Karu when he Heel Face Turns.
- Bilingual Bonus: Gee calls Ms. Wei Popo, which is Chinese for 'grandma'.
- Blinding Bangs: Gee.
- Call Back: Yes, no, maybe so, yes no maybe so
- Cats Are Mean: White Cat is a grumpy, ill-tempered cat who mocks the protagonists on more than one occasion. Granted, it has good intentions, it's just so disdainful.
- Darker and Edgier: The first book was by no means light, oh no. But this book makes things even darker by expanding on how Half World works, detailing character backgrounds, and the protagonists have less help and encouragement than Melanie had.
- Determinator: Cracker trudges on besides Gee even though she's literally dying by the second, just to get what she came for.
- Illana continues to pursue Cracker and Gee despite all that happens. Even losing Lilla and Rilla doesn't slow her down.
- Driven to Suicide: Cracker's sister, Klara, committed suicide by hanging herself in her closet.
- Eaten Alive: Illana's Half Life consists of her constantly drowning while all sorts of sea creatures tear apart and eat her until she dies and respawns to start her cycle anew.
- Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Gee, naturally since he comes from Half World.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Karu refuses to eat children. When Ilanna eats a boy, he's disgusted.
- Though this may have less to do with morals and more on that fact that Karu is starting to remember his past and emphasizes with the boy.
- Heel-Face Turn: Karu regains his humanity when Cracker's struggle reminds him of his brother.
- Lilla the eel defects to the protagonist's team after Ilanna uses it to pay for passage.
- Horror Hunger: Gee starts to suffer this when they get to Half World.
- Location Theme Naming: Lilla is Ilanna's left arm; Rilla is Ilanna's right arm.
- Locked into Strangeness: When Gee becomes Mr. Glueskin again, his hair changes to white.
- Non-Human Sidekick: White Cat.
- One-Letter Name: Gee was originally just referred to as the letter G by Melanie and Ms. Wei, but his name got spelled out as Gee when they were registering him for school.
- I'm a Humanitarian: It's revealed that eating living things is how you extend your Half Life and delay when you're thrown back to your breaking point.
- The girls in the library capture the main cast with the intent to eat them.
- Karu's brother forced him to eat so that he'd snap out of his trauma. But this caused Karu to go crazy and eat his own brother.
- Straight Gay: Ms. Wei and Cracker. Though Cracker could be bi.
- Talking Animal: The eel that replaces Ilanna's tongue talks for her.
- Villainous Crush: Ilanna loved Mr. Glueskin, so she entices Gee to return to Half World so he can become Mr. Glueskin again.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Karu.