From the beginning, she felt things weren’t quite right…
1 Volume – Completed
Nicola A Bradherley, 4th richest man in Britain and a member of the House of Lords, is seen by many as a philanthropist. Each year he adopts a number of fortunate girls from orphanages around the country into his family, sending his coach from orphanage to orphanage to collect them.
Some of these girls are even lucky enough to go on to appear on stage with the famous Bradherley Episcopal Opera Troupe. However, not all are so fortunate. Some are actually very, very unfortunate indeed. You see, Lord Bradherley has another use for most of these girls… a terrible, cruel, inhumane – and government approved – use…
Some readers might recognise Hiroaki Samura’s name from the romantic comedy “Ohikkoshi”, or the sword and sandals epic, “Blade of the Immortal.” If you do, and you’re keen to try “Bradherley’s Coach”, first forget everything you might have read from this mangaka before. This is, simply put, very dark, chilling and very disturbing (yes, my read-at-random method has dished up another offering from the Dark Side). In a way, I’d describe it as “horror done right.”
I’m going to start off with a warning – this manga will shock you. Nothing can prepare you for the premise underlying this tale (although the spoiler below might help…). Yet he doesn’t do it purely for the shock value. As with so many good story-tellers, it is merely the axle around which the story revolves… and it is an immensely compelling story that unfolds as you turn the pages.
Again, as with all good story-tellers, it’s the characters that make this story fizz. Despite some scenes of graphic violence (I thought I was pretty thick-skinned, but this made me cringe more than once) – which, to his credit, he doesn’t dwell on; they happen, the story moves on – it is the characters that draw us into the tale, thanks to some skilful writing and wonderful characterisation.
Left: Diana is about to realise there are no fairy tales…
Although the story initially focuses on the girls themselves, showing us their hopes, dreams and aspirations, as well as adding in the subtle dynamics within the orphanage itself (what would you do to make sure you were the next girl to be “adopted” into a life of bliss?), we are eventually introduced to characters from both sides of the… er… fence. Even here, everybody is portrayed as being human, with feelings and emotions and reactions to what is happening. One chapter in particular hammers home the wrongness of what is happening, in a karmic what-goes-around-comes-around way.
In essence, this is where the power (and dare I say brilliance) of this manga lies – the sheer raw emotion it evokes within you. The fact that we know who those girls are, what they think and what they dream about and long for, makes the fact that you also know the terrible fate awaiting them all the more devastating.
The violence aside, this is not an easy manga to read – purely because of the emotional strain it puts you under. And because of that – the fact that in a few short chapters of the story, the mangaka has already awoken such strong feelings inside me, that I have to say this is easily one of the best manga I have read in a long time. Certainly, not since Battle Royale have I read one that’s hit me so emotionally between the eyes.
However, once again I have to stress that it’s not an easy read and certainly not for the squeamish. By the end of Chapter 1 you’ll either be hooked, or repulsed – I don’t think there is a middle ground with this. I, however, eagerly awaited the arrival of the closing chapters… not too sure what that says about me…
[Reviewer: Gerwyn Petty]