Ekho (in some countries also called Ekho: The Mirror World) is a French adventure-mystery comic series for young adults created by writer Christophe Arleston and artist Alessandro Barbucci, previously know for drawing W.I.T.C.H. and Sky Doll. It was first published in 2013, and so far consists of nine 50-60 page albums, the last one released in 2020.
One ordinary day, young Parisian student Fourmille Gratule is flying on a plane to New York. However, a squirrel-like creature introducing itself as Sigisbert appears before her mid-flight, telling her that her aunt Odelaia has died and left an inheritance for her. Caught by surprise, as she believed her aunt had been dead for decades, Fourmille accepts the inheritance and, together with her fellow passenger Yuri Pedrov, is instantly transported to another dimension: Ekho, the mirror world, where many aspects of modern life are present, along with magic, dragons and other fantasy elements, yet things such as electricity don't exist. Quickly discovering that she can never go back to her original world and that her aunt left her with a talent agency to run, Fourmille has to learn to live in Ekho, dealing with her developing partnership with Yuri and the mysterious Preshauns along the way. Oh, and apparently her body became so attuned to the mirror world during her passage that she is now possessed by souls of recently deceased people with unfinished business in Ekho.
Despite its beautiful, Disney-quality art and overall light-hearted tone, Ekho is not intended for children and often contains scenes of nudity, sexual jokes and, occasionally, medium-level graphic violence.
Ekho provides examples of:
- Another Dimension: The core premise of the comic. Ekho is a world parallel to our Earth and is powered by the fluctuations of thaumaturgic energies. While there is no electricity and fantasy animals replace high-powered machines, many aspects of Ekho are similar to our world, somewhat helping newly-arrived denizens to make re-adjustment easier. Many dwellers consider the Preshauns the most unique and recognisable aspect of their realm.
- Back from the Dead: It is unknown why certain individuals are transported to Ekho while others are not, but one of the transfer-supporting conditions mentioned to the main characters is that every person that crossed over was about to die in their original world and are considered dead there from that point on — in Fourmille and Yuri's case, their plane was about to crash. Later volumes expand this idea, stating that special Ekho-dwelling recovery teams can detect these near-death events and transport the would-be victims to safety if they possess enough affinity for the thaumaturgic energy that powers Ekho's existence.
- Bare Your Midriff: Fourmille and many other characters don at least a few outfits that do this.
- Boy Meets Ghoul: So far, whenever Fourmille is possessed by a ghost of a woman, they try to hit on Yuri, much to his protests and with various outcomes.
- But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Apparently crossovers from Earth to Ekho are a fairly common occurrence, so while the subjects of the crossing are in for a chaotic ride, the locals make nothing of it and treat the newcomers as one would treat an average tourist.
- Chaste Hero: Averted. Yuri really tries to resist when ghost-possessed Fourmille forces herself on him, but as her then-current ghost never took no for an answer in men conquests while alive, he fails, and it marks the beginning of complications in the duo's relationship.
- The Chosen One: Fourmille may be shaping up to become this. She has extremely high affinity for thaumaturgic energy, which may be the reason for her ghost-hosting ability, and her readings were so high that she was able take Yuri to Ekho with her by simply touching him despite him having absolutely no thaumaturgic affinity of his own. This brings her under the attention of the Preshaun ruler who appoints Fourmille her future successor at the end of chapter five.
- Combat Pragmatist: Yuri. He's lousy in real fist-fighting, but thanks to his scientist background and quick thinking, he's excellent at posing his surroundings to gain an edge in a tight spot.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Yuri's current situation with Fourmille. While he finds her physically attractive from the start, he truly warms up to her around the third chapter and from then on takes turns in trying to sort out how he feels about her and clumsily courting her.
- Expy: In the ninth album, while trekking through the jungle, the characters meet Lord Greyzan, Lord of the Makala Mandrills. who reminds Fourmille and Yuri of a certain King of the Apes from their own world — except this version wears a fancy wig and is only able to communicate via his characteristic screams, which the mandrills (who also wear wigs) have translate for him using sign language. Fourmille and Yuri react with a bit of Lampshading:Fourmille: "Greyzan"? Seriously?
Yuri: Could be this or "Tarzstoke," I suppose.
- Friends with Benefits: Fourmille is willing to have a relationship of this kind with Yuri when he decides to move out of New York in chapter six; while she likes him as a friend, she is uncertain if her feelings for him go any deeper than that, yet she strongly wants to have him around. He declines, stating that he doesn't want to stay if her affections are dishonest.
- Funny Background Event: Overlaps with Technology Porn. Many panels where characters walk around the environment include graphical descriptions of how certain mechanical aspects of Ekho work. For example, when Fourmille and Yuri enter the elevator in her aunt's building, you can see trolls operating it by pushing a spinwheel.
- Grand Theft Me: Fourmille's main unlucky gimmick after she transports to Ekho is that she can become possessed by spirits of recently deceased who still have some unresolved matters to take care of, often involuntarily pulling Fourmille and Yuri into events they'd normally avoid. Her friends quickly learn to tell when she is ghost-controlled, as the moment the possession takes place, she reflexively changes her hairstyle to match her "guest's" preferred appearance, together with assuming their facial expressions and voice pitch. Fourmille has no recollection of what her body did during these sessions, and they can commence at random with normal-state pauses between them, often creating humour and uncomfortable situations for her allies.
- G-Rated Drug: Or medication, depending on how you want to interpret it. Preshauns need to periodically drink tea or something rather uncivilised may happen to their bodies...
- Involuntary Shapeshifter: One of the most guarded secrets of the Preshaun species is that when they don't drink tea for too long, many of them involuntarily transform into large, feral werewolf-like creatures that will attack anything in sight until next dose is applied. It takes decades for a Preshaun to learn to control this beast form, and considering their role and reputation in the Ekho society it's semi-understandable why they are sometimes willing to do rather unethical things to keep this condition away from the public.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: The Preshauns are in possession of technology that allows them to selectively erase memories of people. And while they aren't very fond of it, they will nonetheless use it if they feel those memories could expose their secrets or destabilise the society.
- Limited Wardrobe: Yuri, who at best makes some slight modifications to the outfit he was wearing when he crossed over to Ekho.
- Male Gaze and Female Gaze: Very few female characters in this comic do not invoke this, but some men also qualify, such as Fourmille's suitors or Yuri when he's in various states of undress.
- Ms. Fanservice: Fourmille is often subject to this with varying degrees of willingness, but the comic is full of beautiful women and there is not a single chapter where they are not involved in the main plot.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Sigisbert is forced to be this to Fourmille and Yuri several times, and it almost seems like karmic retribution seeing how he usually bosses them around.
- Not Distracted by the Sexy: Sigisbert claims he has no interest in human sexuality and it can't be used against him. That doesn't stop him from eavesdropping through closed doors when he suspects people on the other side are about to get intimate.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: An unusual example. Most people in their right mind dare not to cross the Preshauns due to the amount of legal power many of them have — one look at people with a mischievous smirk is enough to cause several less competent opponents to back off. However, this trope can also have its normal meaning if you upset a Preshaun and keep them away from tea for too long...
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: The Preshauns, at first glance anyway. They are a race of foot-tall bipedals looking a lot like squirrels, and most of them wear capes, utility belts and tight hood-like head gear. It's hard not to "Awwwww" at them, and even the older ones have some charm. And then you remember they are one of the main governing forces of any environment they appear in, have nearly OCD-like affinity for tea and rules, and have access to technology designed to keep in you in line with the greater system whether you like it or not. Especially individuals such as Sigisbert prove just how fast they can shift from RCC to Sidekick Creature Nuisance.
- Sex for Solace: Soledad goes to bed with Fourmille after the latter's emotional breakdown following Yuri's departure. It helps her a bit.
- Shipper on Deck: Grace and Sigisbert discreetly cheer on Fourmille and Yuri hooking up, though in the Preshaun's case it's because he strongly believes the thaumaturgic imbalance caused by Yuri's unexpected arrival to Ekho can be remedied if he physically unites with Fourmille.
- Shout-Out: The seventh album, Swinging London, really ups the number of pop culture references — in the first few pages alone there are blatant references to Star Wars, James Bond and My Little Pony. Two references really stand out, though:
- Fourmille, Yuri and Sigsibert go on an unexpected underground cart ride, and they spot a dragon sleeping in the underground cavern, as well as a separate track filled with money bags and driven by two smartly-dressed goblins. Just in case the reader didn't get what was being referenced here, Fourmille turns to Sigisbert and asks excitedly: "Are there magic wands too? Chocolate Frogs? A map with moving footprints?" Sigisbert dryly tells her that she wouldn't like the answer.
- After inadvertently taking some drugs, Fourmille spends a notable part of the album "possessed" by Sherlock Holmes, whom both she and Yuri acknowledge as a fictional character (Fourmille even name-drops Benedict Cumberbatch). She admits that it's not like her normal possessions; she still knows who she is and what she's doing, but she feels a compulsion to act and reason like the great detective, as well as refer to Yuri as "Watson."
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: The best summary of Fourmille and Yuri's early interactions, though their willingness to participate in that last part depends on their moods and circumstances. In later albums the slapping is also notably toned down as they get along much better.
- The Preshauns, whenever they discuss maintaining the thaumaturgic balance and conditions required for it.
- Yuri, when explaining how some devices usually powered by electricity can work in Ekho, and it borders on Weapons-Grade Vocabulary sometimes.
- Toilet Humor: While traveling to a research institute in Abidjan, the main character take a giraffe taxi, and at the end of the trip the driver advises them to tip the giraffe generously. Sigisbert refuses, saying that they paid enough for the trip and a giraffe wanting a tip is ridiculous anyway, and the giraffe responds by using his head for a toilet.
- Vast Bureaucracy: The Preshauns not only seem to run Ekho on the legal level, but the majority of them are also die-hard bureaucrats, and messing with their paperwork, along with tea deprivation, is the easiest way to tick them off.
- You Can Leave Your Hat On: Grace, Fourmille's assistant at the talent agency, moonlights as a famous exotic dancer / stripper, and sometimes even incorporates Fourmille into her routines when the situation demands it.
- You Can't Go Home Again: One of the first things Fourmille and Yuri learn upon their arrival on Ekho is that they can never return to their Earth; partly because how the thaumaturgic energies work and partly because their transfer occurred seconds before their intended deaths in a plane crash.