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Manga / Bizenghast

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Bizenghast is a completed manga-influenced comic series written and illustrated by M. Alice LeGrow. It was being published in English by Tokyopop until the company closed. The eighth book was released in July 2012. The series has also been adapted into a novel by Shawn Thorgersen, with illustrations by LeGrow.

Set in the haunted town of Bizenghast, the story follows an orphaned teenage girl named Dinah. After trespassing in an ancient mausoleum, she is tasked with returning each night to free the ghosts within the building. Dinah is assisted by her best friend, Vincent, and two of the four tower guardians of the Mausoleum, Edaniel and Edrear. Later on, the team realise there may be more to Bizenghast than meets the eye, and something is unfolding around one Addie Clark and a strange incident many years ago.

LeGrow has released ashcan-style books of abandoned or unused plots, calling them 'Lost Bizenghast'. The series' sequel, 'The Riddle Road', is also available for purchase from the author's Etsy store, here.

This comic provides examples of:

  • Aerith and Bob: The human characters all have normal names, such as Vincent Monroe, except Dinah, whose last name is Wherever.
  • Anyone Can Die: Vincent in volume 4, Elala in volume 6.
    • In volume 8, Edaniel, Edrear, and Dinah all die. Edaniel and Edrear are revived by the new seed of the afterlife, but Dinah dies twice. The first time to contact the afterlife for help, the second time for good.
  • Art Evolution: As the books go on the art becomes much more refined.
  • Artifact of Doom: Seeds, pieces of the afterlife, will kill any mortal who looks at them.
  • Author Appeal:
    • LeGrow likes Lolita clothing. Can you tell?
    • She also created Nareesha specifically because she wanted a full-figured woman to be considered beautiful.
    • Her love of Alice in Wonderland, especially American McGee's Alice is also creeps into the manga several times, including cosplay, Edaniel's character design, & Dinah was Alice's cat.
  • Ax-Crazy: Maphohetka. In volume 8 she finally drops the facade of a well-meaning possible savior of the world and gloats to Dinah, with blood on her hands and a crazy smile, that there's nothing she can do to stop her. M. Alice LeGrow has stated that scene was meant to convey that not even Hetka believes what she's saying and is just messed up.
  • The Beautiful Elite: Dinah and, to a lesser extent, Vincent. The huge wardrobes? Check. The perfect hair and makeup? Check. The huge beautiful houses? Check. The riches? Check. Dinah is also rather talented at drawing and has been described as good-looking. Some of the ghosts may somewhat count such as in Ixi's dream. Played with in that regardless of how rich and beautiful they are, Dinah's considered a freak and a lunatic by the other students at school, and Vincent is secretly miserable and has immense feelings of resentment towards his parents for always being away, and no one at school is close enough to him to know how he really feels and just assume he's happy.
    • By volume six Dinah is seeing shopping with some other friends, after Vincent's death and her acceptance of it, indicating that she's beginning to slough off her reputation as a lunatic.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: The Ark of the Covenant contained a piece of the afterlife, which was uncovered to kill people.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Maggie Murdoch and Ixi. And Hetka, of course.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Nareesha, she's full-figured and also noted for being the World's Most Beautiful Woman.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Edrear's armour is actually an exoskeleton.
  • Bland-Name Product: Jacy's department store.
  • Bonus Material: Some of the books have pictures of cosplay outfits made by the author, volume 4 has some old Concept Art, and volume 6 has a short Self-Parody comic.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Eniri, Bali-Lali, Addie Clark, Edrear, and Edaniel in volume 7 and 8. It's not pleasant.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Edaniel does this in volume 3.
    Edaniel: My God... there's people reading this book!
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Acknowledged and averted. Edaniel and his siblings are only considered brothers and sisters because they were made by the Mausoleum and are not technically related to each other by DNA or anything like that, which is why Edaniel will hit on Edrear or Eniri if he feels like it. Not Elala though.
  • Can't Have Sex, Ever: Edrear has an irremovable exoskeleton. Not that this has stopped fanfic writers.
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: The Seeds.
  • Cats Are Snarkers: Edaniel.
  • Character Development: Most noticeably, Dinah. This is lampshaded in volume 5.
    The Mausoleum: You have come far in your time at the mausoleum. The Dinah who first came to me would not have kept her head upon being separated from her friends. She would not have sought them out in this strange place without fear.
  • Charm Person: Maphohetka. As soon as she touches a person's bare skin she's able to brainwash them instantly, as evident by them gaining marks on their necks similar to the noose scars she has.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The ghosts saved by the main characters come back to help them at the end of volume 6.
  • Cheshire Cat Grin: Edaniel's default facial expression.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Edaniel.
    "I almost choked to death on a Dick Tracy watch once. In retrospect, I should not have eaten it box and all. But the bottom line is that communism is bad for your eyes. [beat] I mean television. I get those confused."
  • Cool Big Sis: Elala was this to Edaniel. She's the only person he won't hit on and is extremely protective of her.
  • Costume Porn: And how!
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: "I'll give you a terribly unfashionable haircut!"
  • A Day in the Spotlight: The third ashcan comic, What Does Bali-Lali Do All Day? sheds light on what Bali-Lali does while Dinah and the others are dealing with the spirits.
  • Death of a Child: The ghosts encountered by Dinah includes the ghosts of children, such as the victims of Maggie Murdock and Her Little Ladyship. Dinah also regularly encountered the ghosts of St. Lyman's students haunting her home in the first volume, but they're not mentioned after that.
  • Driven to Suicide: How Plague and Brenda ended up in the Mausoleum.
    • Edrear in Volume 8 after realizing he's not in control of his actions and our of fear that he may hurt Dinah, whom he's supposed to protect.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: A stuffed animal that looks like Edaniel can be seen in Dinah's room before she meets him. Unless it IS Edaniel, spying on her.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Dinah.
  • Enfant Terrible: Her Little Ladyship. A spoiled brat in life, in death she'd been killing the children of Bizenghast for several years before the Mausoleum finally caught her. She's the first ghost shown who does not get a happy ending, with the implication Dinah sends her to Hell for her crimes.
  • Fighting from the Inside: Edrear in Volume 8.
  • Fish out of Water: Edrear is implied never to have left the Mausoleum for personal reasons before volume 6.
  • Four Is Death: Vincent is on the cover of volume 4, as the figurehead of a ship. Three guesses as to where and to which volume he dies in.
  • Funny Animal: Edaniel's preferred form is that of a cartoony green cat.
  • Giant Spider: Bali Lali.
  • God Is Evil / Jerkass Gods: Hints of this start to emerge in the sequel, with the afterlife shown to be quite the Crapsack World, especially for guildsmen who step out of line.
  • Good All Along: Addie Clark.
  • Half-Identical Twins: Okay, Elala is actually older than Edaniel, but she still looks like him with longer hair and a dress.
  • I See Dead People: Dinah.
  • Important Haircut: Dinah's hair is cut while she's coming to terms with Vincent's death.
  • Info Dump: Played with in volume 1: Edaniel grabs a pillow, sits on it and then says "I like to be comfy in the midst of long convenient blocks of exposition" then proceeds to give the much needed exposition to both the heroes and the audience.
  • Interspecies Romance: Suggested between Dinah and Edrear, and to the max with Edaniel, who will make out with anyone (he also has a girlfriend, Nareesha).
    • Word of God states Edrear always gets like this whenever a female agent is contracted by the Mausoleum. He'll consider them to be the most beautiful and wonderful he's ever met, and he'll have conflicted feelings if there are two female agents at once. This has happened several times before, which is why Edaniel gets so annoyed at him. Apparently, only associating with his sisters is why Edrear has this complex, since he compares other girls to them.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: Dinah's considered to be this by the students at school.
  • Meaningful Name: In-story example. Learning the meaning of Erzebet's name helps Vincent solve a riddle.
  • Missing Episode: Tokyopop went bankrupt right before volume 8 was set to release. The Right Stuff picked up the rights to publish the final volume, but since they used "print-to-order" for a short window of time, an extremely limited amount was created. It's now impossible to find it second hand, though one can still read the finale in the Collector's Editions.
  • Mister Exposition: Edaniel. He even lampshades it.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Addie Clark. And the spirit from the first Lost Bizenghast ashcan. It's assumed by the group he is a violent spirit who created the robots in his world for protection from guildsman, when really he's a lonely pacifist who made robots for a semblance of company. He even imparts a warning to Dinah about Hetka
  • Monster Clown: Bali Lali is a subversion, as she is not evil, but freakish-looking. At the start she seems cruel, but in later books she is shown to be deeply loyal towards the Mausoleum and its safety. She maintains some crazy tendancies, but at heart will seriously injure no one... unless you are trespassing.
  • Monster of the Week: Up till volume 6.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: Edaniel has giant spiky teeth that take up over half his cat-face.
  • Never Learned to Read: Edrear, according to Edaniel. Further proof of this is that he signs his name with an X.
  • Newspaper-Thin Disguise: When he goes to the human world, Edaniel prevents Dinah from noticing him by hiding his face behind an issue of "Not Edaniel" Magazine.
  • Noodle Incident: Edaniel, and tabletop games:
    "So anyway, there's pancakes everywhere. And I tell Fran to get a spatula, and he's like "Dude, I'm a Night Elf, I don't cook." And I'm like "They're cooked already, just pick them up." And he says no! Says he's gonna go start a band or something, I dunno. It was at that moment the shoe came flying from the living room, right at my head, and all I hear is a bunch of ranting in German. And that is the last time I agree to a tabletop game with people I met over the internet."
  • Off with His Head!: How Edaniel is killed in volume 8. By accident, mind you.
  • Only Six Faces: Comes into play. Even Dinah and Vincent share one, though the old people of the town are mainly spared.
  • Our Angels Are Different: They have the obvious white robes and wings, but have a halo of fire instead of light.
  • Palindrome Name: Ixi from Volume 3, who even states that she wanted a name that was like a mirror.
  • Parental Abandonment: Vincent's parents are always traveling, and he suspects they don't intend to ever come back.
  • Perpetual Smiler: Edaniel in his cat form.
  • Poke the Poodle: "Get off her, you creep! I'll scratch your eyes out! I'll give you a terribly unfashionable haircut!"
  • Previous Player-Character Cameo: Inverted — in the last chapter of volume 6, the main character (Muffin) of M. Alice's next manga series appears on the very right of a panel walking next to the resurrected.
  • Pungeon Master: Good lord Edaniel. They're usually quite terrible, too.
    Edaniel: It gave us time to talk about the absence of back-parts in society.
    Dinah: Again?! You were talking about that when we left!
    Edaniel: Yes. And now we've comb full-circle.
  • Running Gag:
    • "Can you part your hair in the back?"
    • "And then I said any club that would have her as a member wasn't worth joining."
    • Anything Edaniel says about Communism.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Elala.
  • The Scapegoat: Addie Clark. Originally introduced as a particularly hostile ghost, she was believed to have killed numerous children and started the fire which burned down St. Lyman's. Volumes 6 and 7 reveal Addie was a genuinely good woman and a caring teacher who was murdered by St. Lyman's headmaster (who also started the fire by accident) because she saw the townspeople hanging a woman for witchcraft. After her death, it was easy to blame Addie for the missing children and the fire, with the rumors driving her ghost insane until Dinah found out the truth.
  • Scenery Porn: There are tons of panels with nothing but detailed drawings of the scenery.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Smug Snake: Her Little Ladyship.
  • Spoiled Brat: Again, Her Little Ladyship. Dinah had shades of this when the series began, but has since moved away from it thanks to Character Development.
  • Stick-Figure Comic: The "Dinah in Ghostland" comic at the end of volume 6.
    Edaniel: This vault is the home of the minimalist ghost! He takes everything in his world and turns it into nothing! That's why we've become stick people!
  • Stylistic Self-Parody: The "Dinah in Ghostland" comic at the end of volume 6.
  • Tempting Apple: There are apples that can cure severe illnesses and even possibly bring someone back from the dead, Dinah is warned to take only one - but is convinced to surreptitiously take another one (which of course later revealed to have turned deadly by the fact she stole it).
  • Together in Death: Ironbound and Rosette from the first volume. Dinah and Vincent in the eight. The two are now tower guards to replace the dead Elala and AWOL Eniri.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Gradually happens to Dinah, thanks to Character Development.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: Featured prominently in one dream.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Bizenghast itself.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Dinah is never shown in the same clothes twice. Not even her nightgown. Justified considering she made all those outfits by her self and had lots and lots of free time before the series, and she seems to come from a rich family if her room is any indication. Vincent also has a huge wardrobe, but his parents are rich.
  • Was Once a Man: The supplementary Guildsman's Handbook reveals that cleaners, such as Bali Lali, were once human - becoming a cleaner is the fate of vandals and failed human agents. Technically, Dinah's and Vincent's ultimate fate involves this, as becoming guildsmen after their deaths means leaving some of their humanity behind. And the sequel series reveals that Edaniel and Edrear are the results of an earlier attempt to turn humans into guildsmen. They're two parts of the same man.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Elala, whose first actual appearance is after she's killed off panel and her body is discovered in volume six. She still appears in numerous pieces of fan art and fan fiction over the internet, and all information on her has come directly from the author.
  • What Could Have Been: A subversion. M. Alice LeGrow has been selling ash can copies of Bizenghast chapters that never made it into the regular volumes online. Entitled "Lost Bizenghast", they contain scripts for the chapters, character designs and page layouts.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • The first volume mentions that there are numerous other ghosts haunting Dinah's home besides Addie Clark and that she's tormented by them frequently. The rest of the series none of them beyond Addie Clark are mentioned, and their abuse on Dinah has apparently stopped.
    • Dinah's horrifying dream virus that she contracted to save Vincent from death after he caught it in Plauges' dream that granted her a dress made of bones and left her acting strangely (i.e. calling her aunt "Mom") just kind of... vanished somewhere in the plot (although Edaniel stated that the virus had become harmless once they transported it to the real world in a tangible form, and he never said how long Dinah's strange behavior would last).
    • The status of Erzebet and her garden after volume two. Although Vincent was able to find the missing plaque from the garden, the status of whether or not the garden was real was left unspecified. Word of God states that Erzebet was simply a projection of the Mausoleum created as part of the trail Vincent had to endure. This leaves the possibility that the Mausoleum could be able to manifest her at will if need be.
    • Eniri vanishes after the eight novel. Word of God has it that she abandoned the Mausoleum because of her high sense of pride has made her unable to continue working there after her betrayal, even if she was brainwashed. Her fate is addressed in the sequel series, accompanied by her reappearance.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: The three-time world champion is Nareesha, whom the author purposely gave a very full figure due to being sick of this title being given to stick-thin women in other works.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Maggie Murdock, the child killing witch in the first volume. And Addie Clark's ghost, who's spent a fair amount of time harming Dinah. Not by her own volition, mind you.