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Comic Book / Anya's Ghost

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Everyone needs a best friend.

Anya's Ghost is a single-issue graphic novel by Vera Brosgol. It features Anya: an insecure, dowdy teenager, a Russian immigrant (although she's lost the accent), who finds herself struggling with the day-to-day trials of highschool life, like her crush Sean and mouthy friend Siobhan. One day, she falls down an abandoned well and discovers the bones of a young girl who fell down there before her... As well as the ghost of said girl, still haunting the well she died in ninety years prior. The ghost, Emily, turns out to be pretty friendly, and the two eventually become good friends, as well as partners in crime. (Anya uses her invisible buddy to cheat on tests, keep watch while she's smoking and spy on classmates.) Of course, these sort of things rarely end well, and soon Emily proves more of a problem than a friend.


A lovely story about friendship, selfishness and maturity. Try the artist's blog for more information.

This comic provides examples of:

  • Adorkable:
    • Dima.
    • Arguably also Emily. Before she snaps.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Emily seems to think so.
  • All Men Are Perverts:
    • A picture of a girl in a bikini is visible on the inside of Sean's locker when Emily sneaks into it to look up his schedule for Anya.
    • Preston tells Anya, "Your boobs look spectacular in that shirt" at Matt's party.
    • Averted with little church boy Dima.
    • Siobhan certainly thinks so.
    Siobhan: You have a crush on Sean? He's the kind of guy you crush on in a bad teen movie! Has he even talked to you?
    Anya: Yes, he has!
    Siobhan: Are you sure he wasn't just talking to your boobs?
  • Alpha Bitch: Deconstructed with Elizabeth. If you are familiar with high school tropes you'll think she'll be one, however she doesn't have the mean-spirited personality that typically defines them. It soon becomes obvious that Anya is the nasty one and she and the other girls are jealous of Elizabeth for being all around "perfect". However, when we get to the party we find out Sean likes to sleep around with other girls and Elizabeth not only knows about it, she goes along with it, because she only feels good about herself if she and Sean are together and desperately wants to keep him in her life. All her positive traits mean very little to her and it only shows she probably has little to no self esteem.
  • All of the Other Reindeer:
    • The other kids picking on Dima. His bullying is only seen for one panel, but it's enough to drive the message home.
    • Anya likewise was treated like this in the past. It's a main reason why she's how she is now.
  • An Aesop: As mentioned above; everyone has problems. Even the person or couple you envy for being "perfect", could in reality have bigger issues than you have.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Sasha at least gets on Anya's nerves a lot.
  • Axe-Crazy: Emily.
  • Beneath the Mask: Elizabeth. She's cheerful, confident, and bests everyone at everything, but none of that gives her any sense of self worth and she desperately tries to keep Sean in her life by helping him cheat on her with other girls.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: We're led to believe at first that Emily is just a timid but friendly ghost who only wants to be free from the hole her remains are in, akin to Casper. But once she manages to get Anya to go to Sean's party, the facade slowly starts to crumble and we begin to see how she really is.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Comes into play when Anya comforts Sasha after he's threatened by Emily.
  • Character Development: Largely with Anya, she comes off as a moody and unlikeable character at the beginning of the story, only caring about herself. As she goes through her encounter with Emily, she begins to realize her own faults and how she previously thought of others were wrong. Ultimately growing to become a more caring character.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: For Anya as she struggles to deal with highschool life.
  • Control Freak: Emily shows her true colors as one when she starts taking more and more control over Anya's life, trying to force her to live the life she wanted.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Emily was this when she was alive.
  • Cute Ghost Girl: Emily's more of a mousy, spindly kind of cute, but still distinctly adorable. Most of the time, anyway...
  • Dead to Begin With: Emily is only shown alive in brief flashbacks.
  • Death by Falling Over: Emily died by falling down the well and breaking her neck.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The entire graphic novel is done in varying shades of black, white, and purple.
  • Delinquent Hair: The boy who rescues Anya from the well has a mohawk.
  • Disappeared Dad: Anya's father is never seen. However, Anya's mother mentions using child support to pay for private school, likely meaning that Anya's parents are divorced.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Emily killed two people because one of them wouldn't return her affections. Lampshaded by Anya:
    Anya: " I don't think murder is an appropriate reaction to disappointment."
  • Imagine Spot: Anya has one about her and Sean, as she prepares to impress him at Matt's party.
    Sean: "Oh Anya, let's have an intense spiritual relationship for no believable reason!"
    Anya: "Oh Sean, take me away!"
  • Evil All Along: Emily, who is actually the ghost of a psychopathic murderess.
  • Evil Counterpart: Emily when her true colors are revealed is the evil counterpart to Anya. After spending time with Anya, she turns out to possess exaggerated versions of all of Anya's negative traits: Emily is obsessive over boys (but unlike Anya, murderously so), sees existing girlfriends of 'mark' boys as competition and not individuals (but unlike Anya, she is inclined to murder them), lies and manipulates (but not just about her last name, she lies about her entire past). The mirroring is even physical: she dons Anya's hairdo and starts smoking "ghost cigarettes", presumably a mimicking of Anya's bad habit.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Emily learns to flatten her hair to create a more modern look.
  • Face–Heel Turn Though it's debatable if she was a Heel to begin with.
  • Fighting a Shadow: Anya's predicament once Emily turns on her.
  • Fog Feet: Emily's feet either are fully formed or just part of a tail connected to her bones depending on what she's doing.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: " leg!"
  • Foreshadowing: The cover. At first glance it just looks like Anya with the Emily we're first introduced to, but look closer and you'll see Emily's hairstyle is different. It's the hairstyle she gets when she first begins to reveal her true self to Anya.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Sasha, Anya's little brother. Their family is Russian.
  • Genre Savvy: Siobhan: "Sean from the basketball team? Dude, he's the kind of guy you're supposed to get a crush on in a bad teen movie".
  • Ghostly Goals: Emily claims to be a type A, trying to get her murder solved so that she can rest in peace.
  • Gym Class Hell: Anya paints gym class that way during the bleep test, although it's pretty standard otherwise.
  • Hair Decorations: Siobhan wears two hair clips.
  • Heel Realization: Arguably from Anya in the last third of the story, realizing that she's kind of a Jerkass.
  • Hollywood Pudgy: Invoked: Anya is of average weight, but diets stubbornly and sees herself as obese.
  • I Am Not Pretty: Again, Anya. For a curvy, fresh-faced young girl, she's pretty convinced that she's unattractive.
  • If I Can't Have You...: Emily's decision after catching her crush with another girl.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: Emily explicitly expresses the wish to upgrade her turn-of-the-century jumper, but she's apparently stuck with it. Played with later as she learns to change her poofy hair into a more modern style, foreshadowing her shift out of the 'innocent victim' persona.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Anya admits that's she's no different from Emily in some similar traits, she's right to point out Emily more than had her chance when she was alive and her dilemma is the result of her own rash actions and failing to grasp their consequences.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Anya's definitely no angel: she lies about her last name and ethnicity, conspires to steal the boyfriend of a girl who has never wronged her whilst playing nice to said girl, ditches her one friend the moment she finds another friend who acts subservient to her, and seriously believes that nerds and minorities have themselves to thank for being picked on. She does show moral backbone when push comes to shove, though. She can't go through with having sex with Sean, out of pity for Elizabeth; apologizes to Siobhan when meeting up with her later; comforts Dima when he asks her how she manages to survive high school so well; and in the end stops lying about being Russian.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Anya explains how she got bullied for many years for her accent, weight and clothes.
    "People might think five-years-olds can't be cruel, but I have some strong evidence to the contrary."
  • Kirk Summation: Anya's last argument with Emily. She sums up how basically Emily was trying to live the life she lost through Anya herself, but pointing out she lost her chance already.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Emily's excuse for burning a couple alive.
  • Love Martyr: Elizabeth. She'll stand guard while Sean cheats on her with other boys' girlfriends because she wants him to love her.
  • MacGuffin: The finger bone, which Emily is attached to. She can travel wherever one of her bones is.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Emily's Evil All Along reveal. She was manipulating Anya to do what she liked in the world of the living.
  • Messy Hair: Emily's is described as 'dandelion-like.'
  • Nice Guy: Sean's pretty nice to Anya about her fall in Gym class even though all the kids laughed at her for it, among other nice behaviors. Subverted at Matt's party, where he's shown as a cheater who doesn't care who he hurts by sleeping around.
  • Noodle People: The thin people, like Emily, are really thin. Emily herself is also somewhat bendy looking, as if she doesn't have bones in her legs.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Emily is to Anya.
  • Not So Different: In the end, we even get an explicit You're Just Like Me speech from Emily - and Anya partially concedes the point, stating that she is enough like her to at least understand her.
  • One-Winged Angel: A mild form of this at the climax, when Emily hauls her bones up from the well in a last-ditch attempt to kill Anya. She looks like a ghostly silhouette with a tangible skeleton underneath.
  • Ordinary Highschool Student: Anya, Siobhan and their classmates. Evidently, Emily wants very badly to be one.
  • Panty Shot: Anya gets one when she trips and falls in the middle of a run in gym class.
  • Product Placement: A boy throws a can of Crush soda down the well where Anya is trapped, which alerts her to call for help. This probably wasn't intentional though.
  • Prophet Eyes: Emily, due to being dead. Her pupils do show up at least once near the end, on a closeup of her squinting eyes.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: How Emily originally died. After burning the couple, she fled from authorities and fell in the well, killing herself in the process.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Emily convinces Anya to dress up and go to Sean's party. This is the result, although Anya wonders if she doesn't look a little "loose-womany".
  • Shown Their Work: Vera Brosgol knows how to investigate old newspapers using microfilm, and she will make damn sure you do too when you've read this. With four pages, and a diagram. (Oh, and by the way, Anya's right: it will hurt your eyes. Don't do this for too long wearing contacts; and if you tend to have seizures, don't look at the screen while fast-forwarding or rewinding).
  • Shout-Out:
  • Smoking Is Cool: Anya and Siobhan think so at the start. Anya begins to realize it just makes her look like a jerk when seeing Emily smoke.
  • Soul Jar: Of a sort. Emily can't move very far from her skeleton, so Anya ends up carrying a bone from her little finger so they can move about together.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: A sad variation. After Anya talks Emily out of her stubborn rage, Emily's skeleton falls apart and she evaporates in order to 'move on'.
  • Unfinished Business: A rather selfish example of this trope. Emily never got to finish chasing boys around and living her life, so she begins controlling Anya's life instead.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Emily; her entire backstory about being killed by a maniac is a lie, and she was never engaged.
  • The Unpronounceable:
    • Anya's last name is Borzakovskaya.
    • Anya's mom makes syrniki cheese dumpling/pancakes for breakfast. They're never referred to as anything but сы́рники, making them look unpronounceable.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Siobhan is Anya's best (human) friend... She just has a funny way of showing it. Then again, Anya's got a funny way of showing it too.
  • Wham Line: Two in a row:
    Dima: We're looking for a murder by a person named Emily Reilly, right?
  • Who Dunnit To Me: How the story seems to initially go. Subverted however, Emily's death was caused by her own accident. And even then, she was the villain.
  • Yandere: The teaser on the cover makes it seem like Emily will be one, but subverted. Emily didn't 'help' Anya for her sake, she did it because she wanted to make Anya live the life she couldn't have. It's revealed that Emily also played this trope straight otherwise, though. She burnt down the house of the boy she liked while he and his girlfriend were inside. because he rejected her feelings for him.
  • You Can Barely Stand: Almost said word-for-word when Emily crawls out of the well, bones and all, to try and drag Anya down with her. But it's obvious it's taking all she has just to move her remains. Her apparent weakness and anguish make this scene a bit of a Tear Jerker.
  • Woman Scorned: Emily, after the boy she likes calls her ugly and goes of with another woman, burns their house down with both of them inside.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Emily. She had her heart broken so she destroyed her life and the lives of two other people.
  • Zettai Ryouiki: In her school uniform, Anya's stockings are between Grade B and Grade A.


Example of: