“Black Museum – The Ghost and Lady”: A New Theatrical Manga Drama
The “Black Museum (Kurohakubutsukan)” in the title of the manga we are introducing to you here refers to an archive collection room that actually exists at the Metropolitan Police Service in London. Under normal circumstances, the room is not accessible to the general public, so most of the characters and the interior of the archive room in this manga are depicted by imagination. As the story unfolds, the archive room proves to be a very curious place and serve as an interesting locale for the whole story. Let’s take a closer look.
The Metropolitan Police Service in London has an archive room collecting criminal memorabilia. The room, commonly referred to as the “Black Museum,” is visited by a man one day. His purpose is to take a look at the item called “Greyman’s Head-on Clashed Bullets.”
It is a lump of iron formed by two bullets colliding head-on into each other and is said to have been left by a ghost called “Greyman” which haunts the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
The visitor to the “museum,” actually haunted by Greyman the ghost himself, starts to talk to one of the archive managers about the origin of the bullets.
According to Greyman the ghost, when people exchange opinions, they send out their “ghost spirits” to each other in an effort to make the opponent submit mentally.
But people do not generate such spirits when they are engaged in a play at a theater, which was why Greyman the ghost finds the theater to be a calm and comfortable place for him.
The man haunted by Greyman the ghost goes on to talk about the time when the ghost received an unexpected visit by a young woman.
She asked Greyman the ghost to haunt her to death. Her name was Florence Nightingale.
Greyman the ghost saw that she was in grief of her helplessness. And that this grief had turned itself on her as a huge monstrous ghost spirit. Seeing this strange sight, Greyman the ghost makes a promise with Nightingale. The promise was that “Greyman would take her life when she had lost all faith in the world”.
The story is set in the Western Europe just before the Crimean War in which Russia fought on behalf of the waning empire of Ottoman against England and France.
Now begins a strange story of Nightingale and Greyman the ghost.
1. Florence Nightingale
2. Greyman the Ghost
A ghost which appears in the spectator stand of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and is called by the name of “the Man in Grey.”
It is said that any play becomes a success when the ghost is seen among its spectators.
Before death, his job was to fight duels on behalf of other men.
A little coincidence led him to start hanging around with Nightingale.
3. Medical Officer Chief John Hall
A chief officer of a medical institution serving on the front line of the Crimean War.
Fearing his mishandling of an event to be discovered, he exploits his authority and gets in the way of Nightingale who tries to reform the battlefield clinic she works for.
The atmosphere and plot of this manga is much like a classic theatrical drama. The promise between Nightingale and Greyman at the beginning of the story reminds readers of a scene from “Faust.” Also, the manga incorporates many classical theatrical elements such as duels and theater. Authored by Kazuhiro Fujita, who has mainly produced manga titles themed on yokai monsters and ghosts, the manga features many ghosts and spiritual beings along with actual historical figures, which gives a unique atmosphere to the whole story.
The bold and sharp touch of his manga drawing perfectly matches the atmosphere of the drama and sometimes reminds us of illustrations in picture books. The drawing style also well brings out the emotions of the characters. The manga does not depict Nightingale as the founder of modern nursing. It rather focuses on her earlier life and elaborates how she matured as a person who will later become such a historically important figure.
This manga is preceded by another title “Black Museum Springald.” It is a dark fantasy featuring “spring-heeled jack,” the urban legend figure which became popular around early 19th century. Now if you have become interested in the “Black Museum” series, both the original and the sequel are worth checking out. To give you a little trivia, the “black museum” and “curator (archive manager)” are also featured in “Embalming,” the manga title by a completely different author Nobuhiro Watsuki.