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Manga / Skyhigh

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Sky High is a fairly obscure seinen manga by Tsutomu Takahashi that was serialized in Weekly Young Jump. It went on to inspire a live-action Japanese series and a film.

A young woman is the keeper of the Gate of Grudges between Heaven and Earth. When someone dies in a manner which may cause them to carry a grudge, they show up at said gate.

The young woman gives the deceased three choices—

1) They can await reincarnation in Heaven, with their past life forgotten.
2) They can defy death and remain Walking the Earth as a ghost forever.
3) They can curse a human, return to Earth in the form of a Vengeful Ghost to kill them, and suffer eternally in Hell.

Each decedent is given 12 days to choose their fate, and are permitted to learn things about their lives and the lives of the people they were connected to during the period of making this decision.

The manga tells the story of each victim and what path they take.

Tropes used by the manga:

  • Abusive Parents: The Chuuto siblings have a crude, drunken, selfish, neglectful, violent excuse for a mother who doesn't even recognize her own son when she sees him in the afterlife. It is a mildly indecent physical relief when Naoto shatters her skull with a skillet.
  • Accidental Murder:
    • Goro Izaki accidentally interrupts his boss's suicide by sword and gets slashed in the throat.
    • One of the deceased is a boxer who has been killed in the ring.
  • Always Someone Better: Although Ryouta was less than enthused about how little Kouji contributed to their duo, he could tell that Kouji had incredible musical talent and (in spite of his own efforts) that the only way he'd get anywhere was by pairing up with him.
  • Blessed with Suck: It's not very fun to have ESP in a world full of ghosts desperate for recognition, particularly since they automatically know if you can see and/or hear them.
  • Body Horror: Sawano Mizuki accidentally drowned by drunkenly falling asleep in her bathtub. Obsessed with her beauty and purity, she said dying in water and leaving a beautiful corpse behind had always been her dream. When she requests to see her body...well, drowning victims who've been in the water awhile don't look so great, let's just say.
  • Brown Note: Vengeful ghosts seem to have inherent ability to scare people to death.
  • Child by Rape: Eugene Miyaguchi is the result of his mother's rape and murder at the hands of an African-American soldier, with his mother having lingered in a coma for six months prior to passing and reaching the gates. She made a deal with Izuko to allow him to be born.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: When two young children are separated from their parents by being killed in a drunk-driving accident, two other people who had died on the bus with them consider cursing their parents to death in order to reunite the family at the gate, at least for a little while, and to keep the father from taking revenge on the driver and going to hell.
  • Dream Walker: It seems that people closely associated with those at the gate can travel it in their dreams—Izuko says that this is due both dreams and that realm being a place of longing.
  • Dream Weaver: The gatekeeper can allow dead people to enter the dreams of others.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Kinoshita, assisted suicide. Normally suicide gets you sent to hell immediately - Izuko says it's murdering yourself - so she researched this technicality and convinced her friend to do it. Note that Kinoshita is given the choice rather than being sent to Hell like a typical suicide.
    • The killer in "Room 302" immolates himself and his victim's apartment upon looking around the place and realizing she was completely sincere about wanting to be with him.
    • Erika Kitazawa, aka "Dowser" was born with the ability to hear spirits, who bombarded her constantly with demands for attention, threats, insults and so forth. Eventually she fell in with an online "suicide club" and (due to the outside influences driving her to it) ended up at the Gate instead of Hell when she finally topped herself.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: After years of diffident contributions to his and Ryouta's music, Kouji finally got the inspiration he'd been looking for all his life—when he saw Ryouta's spirit leaving his body after a car crash.
  • Extreme Doormat: Miki spent her whole life bowing her head to other people and doing anything they wanted because she felt she'd end up alone if she didn't. It didn't stop the Ono brothers from killing her.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: One peculiar quirk of the Gate of Grudges is that you don't go there until your body is discovered by someone after death. One decedent was a little girl who died playing with her friends twenty years ago when she fell into a hole and was only discovered when they were looking for a school time capsule at a reunion. What are the souls up to in the meantime? Apparently nothing. At any rate, this sometimes necessitates Catching Up on History.
  • Fond Memories That Could Have Been: After learning that he'd sired a (now-deceased) daughter from a one-night stand eighteen years ago, Azuma writes his last book—a year by year account of the life he would have given her if he'd known she existed. Alas, he doesn't get to finish it because of his daughter's maternal grandfather who was furious that he couldn't let sleeping dogs lie.
  • God Job: Keeping the Gate is only a temporary job with a duration of thirteen years. At the end of that period, the keeper is given the option or staying or going on to reincarnate and giving her position to a worthy candidate. Izuko passes her position to Anna at the end of the first series, and at some point before Skyhigh: Karma Anna passed it on to a girl named Miho.
  • God's Hands Are Tied: If a gate guardian should make a choice for someone's fate, they will immediately be sent to Hell. They can provide information and counsel, and even make a plea against vengeance, however.
  • Gold Digger: A hideous man kills his girlfriend because he thinks she was after only his money. Turns out she was both with him for the money, and because she was lonely herself.
  • Goodbye, Cruel World!: Kino-shita sends a note to each one of the Alpha Bitch snobs who bully her telling them that one of them is next, because she will come back to kill.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: The pregnant's woman son does not go down to hell. She puts her son's spirit into the body of her murderer's newborn son, replacing her murderer's child. It's ambiguous where Noriko goes at the end. The last page leaves us with Izuko looking at the sky. That's the ending we get when someone goes to heaven.
  • Interrupted Suicide: In "Ocean of Trees" a young lady goes to Aokigahara to end her life, but having a killer come after her changes her mind real fast.
  • I See Dead People: Some people, such as Kouji from "A Song" can do this. The gatekeeper can allow people to see the souls of the deceased if she chooses.
  • It Can't Be Helped: After the schoolgirl Kinoshita kills herself because she knows she'll be able to kill the Alpha Bitch at her school as a ghost, she realizes that her friend she left behind is overjoyed in her death and then wishes she hadn't decided to drown herself. Izuko simply tells her that's it's too late and it can't be helped, so she might as well just go to heaven without going through with the killing.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Sometimes the choice of whether or not to kill someone is taken out of the deceased's hands by the killer's own foolish actions.
  • Lonely Together: In life the decedent in "Room 302" started a relationship with a man out of mutual loneliness. Yes, his money was a factor, but not as much as her her desire not to be alone. Although she wasn't in love with him, she was sincere about her desire to stay together with him—unfortunately, he got the impression that she was a Gold Digger scamming him and killed her, then himself upon learning the truth.
  • Loser Protagonist: Murata, who is stabbed and dies saving a woman from an assault is discovered to have been a voyeur with a number of filthy fetish videos after the police investigate his home. He himself says he'd never done anything worthy of praise in his life.
  • Misplaced Retribution: With the proper object of her vengeance having killed himself, the woman from "Room 302" vents her rage upon the people unwittingly making love on the bed her corpse is hidden under, murdering two people who had nothing to do with her death and condemning herself to Hell.
  • Neat Freak: Sawano Mizuki became obsessed with beauty and purity after being molested as a child, to the point where she wears gloves while typing at her computer.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Murata, a lifelong pervert and voyeur, saves a woman from a mugger only to die in the process. After his death, his family discovers his porno collection, to his shame, and the lady he saved starts badmouthing him because of his habits.
  • Not Worth Killing: The Gatekeeper often tries to explain to murder victims that their killer is automatically going to Hell when they die, so cursing them and condemning themselves as well is pointless. This doesn't always work.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Those who choose the remain ghosts and live in limbo can only ascend to heaven/reincarnate if people make a memorial to them.
  • See You in Hell: The murdered gold digger's body is left under the hotel room's bed, and when a couple have sex on top of the bed she kills them and is damned for killing someone other than her murderer. Izuko tells her that she'll be eternally lonely there, like Izuko is, and the woman grins and tells her, "See you there."
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: The third option, in which someone elects to come back as a ghost and kill a person, makes them a murderer, and murderers go to hell. Even if the decedent is killing the person who killed them, even if the decedent is killing to save someone else's life, it's hell for them.
  • The Sociopath: In Shinsou, a combination of his father's neglect and his mother's others obsessive coddling have turned Yuuta into this; after they die he starts killing.
  • Take a Third Option: Eugene's mother Yuka, pleads with Izuko to allow the innocent child conceived by the act to live. Izuko gives her the "the frozen option"—to spend another sixteen years alive on earth, at the cost of the total annihilation of her soul upon death. She agrees.
  • Together in Death: The two dead souls from "Connection", who choose to kill their murderers and descend into Hell together.
  • Ungrateful Bitch: Although she puts on a sad face at the funeral, the lady Murata saved from being killed in "Hero" mocks him in private for his voyeurism fetish and dismisses the act. Even her lover is put off somewhat by her callous attitude, and it nearly makes Murata decide to kill her.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Ayame Joumaru, famed actress and singer, decided that she wanted to have a child and so had herself artificially inseminated with an anonymous man's sperm. That child, Mai Takamaru, is genuinely kind, charming, lovely—oh, and she inherited an incredibly powerful curse from her unknown father's bloodline that killed the psychic who tried to learn more about it.
  • Vengeful Ghost: Behind door number three is the option to become a vengeful ghost and kill someone with your own bare hands or even with just a glare! Rod, what do they win if they choose door number three? Why, an eternity in Hell due to becoming a murderer! Can they still terrorize and nearly kill people before backing off and choosing another one of the options? The judges say 'yes'!
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: One half of a musical group (Kouji) had incredible musical talent, but was waiting for the right inspiration to write—which he found when he and the other half (Ryouta) had a car accident and Kouji saw his partner's spirit separating from his body. The song went on to become a smash hit and Kouji's been famous for the two years Ryouta was in a coma before dying. Ryouta is furious that Kouji wrote a song rather than help him in the aftermath of the crash and with Tranquil Fury asks if he's having fun. No, not at all. Kouji, smirking ruefully, explains that he's been suffering all this time.
  • Who Will Bell the Cat?: When two parents who have inadvertently raised a killer decide to curse him and end his life before he can murder again, Izuko brings up the fact that they only need one person to curse him and thus be sent to hell.