Today I will begin a new life that has light in it.
Some years ago, a girl killed herself. She was only discovered when one of the neighbors reported a strange smell. When the police arrived, she had been dead for quite some time. The body had decomposed and was unidentifiable. The local paper ran a very small article about the event, which was quickly forgotten. Before long, it was as if this girl had never been alive.Daikichi has lost his job and place to live. On the verge of homelessness, he ends up moving into an old, mostly abandoned and allegedly haunted apartment building. When he moves in, he meets Kana, a cheerful girl who is already there. As it turns out, she's been there ever since she killed herself in that apartment all those years ago. At first, Kana is overjoyed at having someone to talk to - and buy beer; boy did she miss beer. Daikichi is in denial that she could really be a ghost, but after running, quite literally, through her, he is forced to accept the fact. After a few beers, and a few more beers for her, Daikichi asks her about her death.Kana doesn't remember who she was, or why she killed herself. She has only vague memories about the event. It was at sunset on a summer night. The only thing she remembers thinking was "I don't want to die at night." Nighttime scared her. So she sat down at a window and, while watching the sunset, stabbed herself in the chest. "Many times." The last thing she remembers seeing is her blood spurting out, sparkling in the light of the sunset, which seemed to her set the room on fire. She thought "How beautiful..." and died.After Kana tells him this, Daikichi ponders if, given his circumstances, he wouldn't do something similar. Kana immediately tells him to never think that. No matter what, he must keep on living. A ghost telling him to live makes Daikichi laugh and he tells her he's sure he will be ok, at least for that night. They continue talking, and when he reaches out to point to Kana's chest where she should have had scars from her suicide, they are both surprised to find he is able to physically touch her. For a moment his hand is resting on her unscarred, soft breast. ("HEY! Ecchi!") That night they make love, and Kana remembers how it feels to be alive. In the morning, everything seems normal and Daikichi wonders if Kana might not have disappeared. He lifts the blankets and she peeks out, opens her eyes and says, "Good morning~" And they begin to fall crazily, deeply in love with each other.As the story unfolds, local convenience store manager Inagawa Goro (39; soon to be 40; unmarried; occupation: convenience store manager; hobby: the supernatural) becomes more and more interested in Daikichi and Kana, looking for the supernatural experience he's wished for since he was a child. Later, we meet Utako, another "abandoned" girl who moves into the apartment with barely more than the clothes on her back and a guitar. With only a few expository lines from Daikichi, her vague backstory suddenly changes from "homeless" to horrifying.My Lovely Ghost Kana is a beautifully written and illustrated story from Tanaka Yutaka spanning a year of Kana and Daikichi's lives in three volumes. Somewhere between Slice of Life and Magical Girlfriend, it's a story that deals with two people, their love for each other, and how their love carries them from their difficult pasts into a bright and hopeful future.The overall story veers between Kana and Daikichi's growing relationship, her antics as a Genki GirlMagical Girlfriend, the occasional hints of the despair behind her death, quite a few Tear Jerker moments of heartwarming happiness and how Kana's life-after-death touches nearly everyone she meets for the better as she learns that it's never too late to be happy, never too late to love, never too late to live.(One caveat: this manga does have a lot of explicit sex, especially in the first dozen chapters. Very sweet, romantic, tender lovemaking; but nevertheless, things do get pretty wet and messy on a regular basis.)
Daikichi can barely get his hands off Kana (just as she can't get hers off him), but he's firmly Kana-sexual and doesn't even try to look at Utako when he helps her with her hot water problem in volume 2.
Inagawa has a Thanks for the Mammary incident with Kana, and is thrilled by it. Not because he touched her boobs, mind you, but because he touched a ghost. Even when he grows infatuated with her, it's more due to her supernatural nature than anything, and even then, it's an innocent, Puppy Love-like infatuation.
All Women Are Prudes: Subverted just as much as the above trope. Kana and Daikichi are just as enthusiastic and active in their relationship as each other, including the sexual aspect of it.
And Now for Someone Completely Different: Chapter 15.5 is a quick one shot about a completely different and normal (two humans) high school couple visiting a love hotel. They never meet or even see the main characters at any point during the story and we never see them again after the chapter is over.
Kana doesn't care about her tragic past because she's happy with Daikichi now. She tells Daikichi that her prior life doesn't really matter much anymore when he asks if she ever wonders who she was.
Likewise Daikichi is too busy thinking about his future with Kana to dwell on the unfortunate circumstances that brought him to this point in his life. Early on, he mentioned that he'd rather not talk about it, and he never does, except to eventually admit to himself that he's thankful for those terrible events because he never would have met Kana otherwise.
Utako's only-hinted-at back story sounds horrifying, but, like Daikichi, she never mentions it. Instead she gets inspiration from her new friends to keep going forward with her music and by the end she is working on recording her own CD.
Inagawa sports the most angst of anyone, being depressed over his mundane life compared to his love of the occult. However his date with Kana gives him the "paranormal" experience he's wanted his whole life and is able to return to his daily routine satisfied and happy.
Barbie Doll Anatomy: The sex scenes are usually drawn discretely enough that we don't get a good view of anybody's crotch. In the few cases where we do, Kana and Daikichi are both quite featureless. Kana's breasts are uncensored, though.
Beat Panel: After Utako moves in, but before Kana and Daikichi know she is there, Kana has been hearing strange noises in the apartments:
Kana: (serious) Don't be too shocked... but one comes out... in this building...
Daikichi: (deadpan) ...You don't say. I already knew that.
Blush Sticker: Most characters, but Kana and Daikichi most frequently when they're really happy.
Bookends: The story opens and closes in the spring, one year apart, with the Sakura outside the apartment in full bloom. The first volume itself begins and ends very similarly, with Daikichi coming to the convenience store to buy a few things and going home, where Kana welcomes him energetically.
Bridal Carry: Daikichi does this to Kana when she catches a cold in chapter 7.
Broken Bird: The first indication that Utako is in the apartments is sobbing from the showers. Her backstory is only hinted at but she has clearly been through something terrible. Kana and Daikichi's friendship helps her get better.
Cherry Blossoms: There's a big tree in the apartment's yard as mentioned above. Given the many connotations of cherry blossoms in Japanese culture (death, fragility of life, renewal, passing from one stage of life to another, beauty of nature, first love...), it's highly symbolic, especially as it's in full bloom both when Daikichi meets Kana and at the end of the story.
Dogged Nice Guy: In some ways, Inagawa. His obsession with the occult and Kana eventually materializes as infatuation, but he doesn't romantically pursue her, has no problems with her being in a relationship with Daikichi, and is even on very good terms with the guy.
Driven to Suicide: Kana, tragically was driven to kill herself for reasons she doesn't remember. Daikichi was on the verge until he met Kana, as was Utako until she became friends with Kana and Daikichi.
Fanservice: It's certainly more ecchi than fanservicey, but Kana and Utako are nice to look at. Utako gets what comes as close to straightforward Fanservice at the beginning of the chapter where she is in the shower.
The cover of volume 2 as well as several chapter title pages show Kana in a bikini or a shorter dress than usual with camera angles focusing on her cleavage, butt or crotch. Some of them can be quite jarring with the content itself, where Kana is actually rarely subjected to this kind of fanservice outside of her tender moments with Daikichi. Also, despite being the main character along with Kana, Daikichi never appears on the covers or title pages. Basically, it looks as if the manga was trying to sell itself as your usual Fanservice centered ecchi at the time of its prepublication, and even later when it was published in book format. The picture used at the top of this page, taken from a panel in volume 3, is actually much more representative of what the story is about than any of the illustrations made for its advertisement.
Furo Scene: An entire chapter is devoted to one of Dakichi and Kana's regular visits to a local bathhouse. Most of it involves Kana very sweetly expressing her appreciation for how many different kinds of bodies there are, from the ones who have seen a lot of life, to the brand new.
Genki Girl: Kana again. Although when Utako first comes to their apartment to meet her, she is surprisingly overcome by an extreme case of shyness. Seeing the normally bubbly, cheerful Kana shyly peeking out from behind the curtain as Utako comes in somehow makes her even more utterly adorable.
Ghost Amnesia: Kana remembers some details from the day she took her life, but not why she did it, which is probably for the best. She's not even sure of how her name was spelled. At the end of the series, she still hasn't remembered any important details from before her death, and that's fine.
A good indication of Kana's mood, as there are more of them when she is happy and make little "pop" noises when she is especially happy.
Also used amusingly when Daikichi finds an old "dead" cellphone and he and Kana discover that he can use it to keep in touch with her. A stylized ghost light is her chat icon and one also takes place of the service icon.
However, can also be used in a much more serious tone: when Daikichi is buried by a landslide and on the brink of death, Kana summons an enormous amount of heat, enough to keep him alive and alert the authorities.
Daikichi: On this night that is like the end of the world, I want your warmth, Kana.
Interestingly, it doesn't mean the trope is played painfully straight: Kana and Daikichi can play it gentle just like they can play it rough, while being equally loving in both cases. They enjoy switching positions too. One particular example that comes to mind is a scene where they do it doggy-style, a position that has been used in some works to implement that Bad People Have Bad Sex. However, the narration, their facial expressions (especially Kana's smile during and after the act) and the way Daikichi holds her afterwards makes this sex scene just as beautiful as the others.
Gratuitous English: Kana has a habit of using English words out of the blue, to which Daikichi will often respond by a bemused "Why in English?".
Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Other than Dakichi, there's not much more that Kana likes more than a cold beer. Although it's more like a mortal pleasure she misses, and it never seems to affect her. It becomes a regular ritual for Kana and Daikichi to share a six-pack at the end of a day. (Although she does her best to get straight to "drinking beer" whenever possible.)
Hyper Competent Sidekick: Yaguchi is constantly having to keep Inagawa - her boss - in line and pay attention to the store rather than Daikichi, as well as frequently being subjected to his monologues about the supernatural.
Informed Poverty: Mostly averted. The apartment Kana and Daikichi live in look like a bed-sitter, with the shower (and probably also the toilets and laundry) on the landing. They own neither a phone nor a cellphone, much less a computer or anything fancy. Daikichi does get his hands on an old discarded TV set at the beginning of the story, and later on a water-logged cellphone that he can use to communicate with Kana, but those are about the only luxuries they get, and only because they got them for free. On the other hand, they're not tight on money to the point they can't afford non-vital commodities like six-packs on a daily basis.
In Medias Res: After a short one-page prologue, the story starts with Daikichi buying some beer at the convenience store... as he has already met Kana and she's the one who sent him fetch drinks.
Children, elderly people and animals are the only ones who ever perceive Kana other than Daikichi without necessarily sharing a close relationship with her.
It's assumed but never actually spelled out that Utako eventually is able to talk directly with Kana. Although she still can't see her except barely when she tries to take pictures of Kana and Daikichi on her cellphone.
Circumvented by the "dead" cellphone Daikichi finds which she can call, send texts to and is capable of taking her picture. Inagawa uses it to interact with Kana on their date.
Limited Wardrobe: All characters to some extent, although you can easily find justifications for it: Kana is a ghost and doesn't need to change clothes outside of aesthetic reasons; Daikichi and Utako don't have much possessions anyway; Iganawa and Yaguchi are almost always seen at the convenience store, where they wear their uniforms. Some characters do get a completely different outfit at least once in the story, though, like Kana with the dress Daikichi gave her.
Lucky Charms Title: Please call him "Pure ☆ Sensei." If you leave out the "☆'' it will make him cry.
Luminescent Blush: Most characters at some point, but especially on Kana, when she's really happy, has been drinking or doing other things.
Maybe Ever After: The manga ends on a somewhat open ending, never telling us whether Kana will one day "move on" or not. The author note of volume 3 explains, however, that she has no reason to, nor is there any reason to separate her from Daikichi - giving hope to many readers that they will stay together forever.
Amano Daikichi's full name means "great luck from heaven". He lampshades himself the tragic Irony of it as he's been about as down on his luck as you can get when the story starts... until he meets Kana and both become blessed with lots of happiness. Even more symbolic from Kana's point of view, as "luck" literally came to her after ten years of solitude.
The uta in Utako's name can mean "poem" or "song", and ko is a common ending for feminine names. Basically, it's as if she was called Melody.
The whole series is a story about love and living, but to point out how important love is and why life is worth living, there are the occasional scenes that hammer it home by showing you the complete opposite. Stylistically even, the serious sides of the story - especially dialog regarding Kana's death - are written in an almost poetic style, contrasting with the more prosaic writing style of the rest.
Near the end of the chapter with Inagawa's date with Kana, he wonders if he might not have crossed paths with Kana... before... and that if he had only been a little nicer to her at the time... then maybe...
The chapter "Kana and Mom" starts out very silly, then suddenly turns around and kicks you in the gut - hard - with a very poignant, very human moment, and will leave you in tears at the end.
The chapter "Under The Stars" has got to set some kind of record, abruptly changing the mood seven times.
The chapter "Kana at Sunset" has a minor one on the last panel of page 18. Might be initially hard to notice, but look behind Daikichi at Kana's face on the wall in the panel.
Mundane Luxury: Kana and Daikichi are thrilled when he brings a dead cellphone home from his part-time job. When powered by Kana's ghostly waves, it can work again, from taking pictures to sending texts and so on. The texting and calling functions don't look like they can work with someone else than Kana, though.
Nice Girl: For all her antics and pranks, Kana has a big heart of gold, as best demonstrated when she brings back a balloon to its young owner in an amusement park, or when she talks through Pure ☆ Sensei to reassure Kanako's mother, even though she didn't have to. With the help of Daikichi and Yaguchi, she also sets up a "date" with Inagawa just so he can fullfil his dream to talk to a ghost.
Nice Guy: Daikichi is very tender with Kana, always caring for her well-being, as well as for her pleasure in their most intimate moments. He also lends a hand several times to Utako out of sheer friendliness and helps set up Inagawa's "date" with Kana, telling him about it and lending him his phone so Inagawa can finally talk with her.
No Indoor Voice: At first, Utako belongs to the school of thought that if she can't see or hear Kana, she should speak loudly so Kana can hear her.
Nothing Is Scarier: Invoked in a very unique fashion towards the end of the first volume. Five pages of pure black with only a short paragraph of text on two of them. In context, it is a scary, tear-inducing moment of anxiety before finding out which sort of ending is coming - happy, sad, or downright devastating.
Our Ghosts Are Different: Kana can only be perceived by the elderly, the very young, or someone who loves her. She's cold enough to chill beer in her cleavage, but gets warmer when she's horny. She can move through walls and people, but she can move physical objects and to Daikichi, she's substantial enough to have sex and even support his weight. She cannot leave the place where she died until she breaks the barrier to rescue Daikichi, after which it's not a problem. She can eat and drink, but doesn't need to. She seems to become more substantial and "alive" the more she is loved.
The Pollyanna: As the combination of Dark and Troubled Past and Angst? What Angst? - or rather, it's Angst? What Angst? that stems from this trope, should we say. Kana is already one when the story starts. Daikichi's mood is (understandably) somber in chapter 1, but he becomes one from the next chapter onwards, and the afterword of volume 1 describes it as one of his major traits. Like Daikichi, Utako starts off as rather depressed, before becoming another embodiment of the trope soon after befriending Daikichi and Kana.
The Power of Love: One of the most important themes of the manga. While it's never made explicit, the story regularly hints at Kana becoming warmer, more substantial, and generally more "real" and "alive" in proximity to someone who loves her - and the more they love her, the more real she gets.
The best example is of course Daikichi: before they get to know each other, she passes right through him, but after their meaningful conversation, he can touch her to a degree (his hand still passes through her sometimes on their first night together). The next time we see them having sex, she's perfectly solid, and by the end of the story, even things like Kana "melting" on top of Daikichi and getting him covered in ectoplasm don't happen anymore, as if she had definitely gotten solid around him, all the time. The only exception is at the end of volume 1, possibly because she had been weakened after forcing her way out of the force that bound her to the abandoned building. And then, there's the fact she gets warmer, sometimes very much, when they make love - warmth being what differentiates the living from the dead, who are cold. Kana even remarks this on two occasions, and even here, there's a progression in what she says: at the end of chapter 1, her first time with Daikichi has her saying it felt like being alive; fifteen chapters later, she drops out the "felt like" altogether and states that it's good to be alive.
This will apply later on to Utako and Inagawa too: at first, Utako can neither see, hear or touch her, but as their friendship grows, she gets to hear her, and sometimes, see parts of her body. Inagawa doesn't develop a deep friendship with her, but his kind words at the end of their date get him to have a brief but clear vision of her.
In a less metaphoric and more Slice of Life application of the trope, The Power of Love is also what makes Kana and Daikichi's life so happy, even when they don't have much materially and financially speaking. They live on love alone, but that's a lot of love.
The doctor scolding Daikichi for "doing it too much", with what looks very much like envy written all over his face. As a bonus, when Inagawa is feeling lovesick after his first contact with Kana, he's revealed to have gone to the same doctor, who scolded him too.
"Inagawa Goro; 39, soon to be 40; unmarried; occupation: convenience store manager; hobby: the supernatural".
Yaguchi coping with his antics.
Utako just can't take a shower in peace.
Daikichi doesn't like spicy food nearly as much as Kana does, much to his dismay when she keeps sneaking "Hell-level" spicy into their meals.
Say It with Hearts: Used frequently by Kana and Daikichi, especially in... "intimate" moments.
Scenery Porn: Not so much as to distract from the story but still a few. The view of the ocean from the top of the ferris wheel and the scenes at the Grave for Wandering Spirits are notable.
Sickeningly Sweethearts: Played with. Not a day passes without Kana and Daikichi cuddling and talking with hearts to each other, but they also have plenty of non-sickeningly sweet moments, like goofing around while wiping the window pane or arguing over whether or not to buy the new spicy ramen brand. Also, you'd expect them to shower each other with I love yous, but they don't - which is yet another Heartwarming thing in itself as it feels like they both know they don't need to. The only times where they do say it are, 1) indirectly, at the immensely emotional end of volume 1, when Daikichi calls her his "beloved Kana" and Kana says she won't let the person she loves die, and 2) on the last page of chapter 21, where Kana outright says "I love you" to Daikichi after one of the most "aaaw" inducing moment of the series.
Single-Target Sexuality: Both Daikichi and Kana towards each other. When Utako moves in, Daikichi acts as nothing more than a kind neighbour towards her. Kana has a friendly Skinship Grope with Utako and shows harmless curiosity towards men body types in the public bath, but is never seen to be attracted towards anyone else but Daikichi, and the story even states she had never known love before him.
Skinship Grope: Kana sneaking up on Utako and playfully grabbing her from behind.
Slice of Life: As much as there are Magical Girlfriend moments, there are ordinary days as well. Kana likes beer ("Angelheart Draft" is a favorite) and watching baseball on TV. She loves spicy food and is always trying to sneak extra hot spices into their food against Daikichi's wishes. Daikichi gets a job and starts fixing up the apartment with Kana's help. They go out to the amusement park, shopping, eating, and the only difference between them and any other young couple is that she is a ghost. And in the end, even that's not important.
Starving Artist: Utako writes songs, plays the guitar and sings for a living. And when she moves in in the same building as Kana and Daikichi, she barely has more than the shirt on her back. Thankfully, her last appearance leaves us with the feeling things are going to improve, as she's off to record her first CD.
Used in a surprisingly serious tone in chapter 1, as Daikichi reaches out to point out Kana's lack of scars on her breasts, and ends up making physical contact with her for the first time. Kana laughs it off, and next thing they know, they're very sweetly making love on the floor.
Used in its usual comical tone in chapter 10: Inagawa is talking with Daikichi in the store, while Kana is standing (invisibly) in front of him apologizing to Dakichi for just having caused stuff to fall of the shelves. Inagawa makes a gesture with his hands of how he wishes he could just reach out and grasp something of the supernatural, and, well, Kana is standing right there.
Undeath Always Ends: Averted in a literal sense, applied in a metaphorical one. Kana is still a ghost at the end of the story, but being with Daikichi makes her feel alive again. The more traditional meaning is teased a few times when Daikichi wonders when and if Kana will "move on". It won't happen anytime soon, though. The last scene has Kana and Daikichi watching the sakura blossoms fall and planning to do it again next year.
In the author's notes at the end of volume 3, Word of God confirms that It will never happen, because Kana is not the kind of ghost who needs to "move on". She belongs where she is now.
Unfazed Everyman: Past Daikichi's first meeting with Kana, his total absence of reaction at being soaked with ectoplasm, Kana's paranormal antics, or being told that there is another ghost in the house when he has good reasons to believe ghost exist, can elicit downright hilarious situations.
Daikichi: (upon seeing Inagawa sprawled at the bottom of the stairs with a garlic necklace around his neck along with other supernatural accoutrements) Oh, manager. Good evening. (walks up the stairs as if nothing was out of the ordinary)
He does get creeped out by Kana's way of paying him back for doodling on her face, though. But then, it was really scary...
Unwanted Harem / Love Triangle: Subverted. The introduction of Utako looks like a classic setup for this, especially with a shower-based incident soon after she moves in. It's put to rest right away when Kana starts smacking Daikichi for it and Utako immediately deduces that Kana is a ghost. She is overjoyed at finally meeting Daikichi's girlfriend to the bemused delight of both Daikichi and Kana.