Beyond the Clouds: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is a manga-style, fantasy comic by Nicke which was originally published in France. I was drawn to the comic’s steam-punk aesthetic, beautiful cover art and the promise of a fairy tale-like story and decided to give it a try. So, did this tale of magic and adventure wind up capturing my heart? Well… not entirely.
Theo is an orphan who has a skill for inventing and a passion for reading. Books allowed him the escape he needed in order to cope with the loss of his family at a young age and he has always longed to experience thrilling and wondrous adventures, just like the ones he read about in his favourite stories. One day, while looking for useful items in the junkyard, he stumbles across an injured girl with wings. While people with animal features are not uncommon where Theo lives, humans with wings are incredibly rare and Theo knows taking the girl to the hospital would put her in danger. Instead, he takes her home and nurses her back to health, but the girl has lost one of her wings and the only thing she can remember about her past is her name: Mia. Theo resolves to help Mia fly again and sets about trying to design her an artificial wing. The two quickly become close friends as they live together and work on constructing and testing Mia’s new wing, but they soon get the feeling that someone is watching them. Theo wants to protect Mia but he might not be up to the task, especially when he discovers that there’s much more to his new friend than he realized.
Beyond the Clouds has a very whimsical quality to it. The art is sketchy and cute and the vaguely European setting seems heavily influenced by Studio Ghibli films and video games, things that the creator expressed her love for in the interview included at the end of the book. This comic gave me a nostalgic feeling, like I was reading a classic fairy tale or a recounting of one of the magical adventures I used to imagine myself going on as a child. This makes sense, as our lead character is a book-lover who is going on a quest, just like the ones he’d read and dreamed about for years. It feels like a celebration of the kind stories that I grew up reading and the narrative is sprinkled with all kinds of fantasy-story tropes, like human-animal hybrids and enchanted forests inhabited by wise old hermits. Theo and Mia also feel like traditional character archetypes; Theo is a kind and inventive boy whose courage and ingenuity help to see him through difficult challenges and Mia is an adorable and sweet girl whose innocence is juxtaposed against a dark power that’s hiding inside of her. The two of them have a great, sibling-like friendship and it was very endearing to watch Theo care for Mia and help her to cope with the frightening situation she finds herself in by reading the same stories to her that helped him to get through difficult times.
The downside of utilizing so many tropes, however, is that the plot winds up feeling a bit unoriginal. We have the plucky, orphan protagonist, the mysterious girl with amnesia and a strange power and so on and so forth. There isn’t much here that feels unique or fresh. Employing these common story elements certainly helps to evoke the feeling of familiarity that I think the comic is aiming for, but it also saps some of the excitement out of the narrative. Beyond the Clouds does feel like it’s aimed at younger readers, so perhaps these conventions will feel less tired to the target audience who haven’t seen them quite as often, but I found myself getting bored.
While I liked the characters and found the art to be very pretty, the story of Beyond the Clouds felt generic and failed to fully capture my interest. I do think that there is potential here, however, and I think I’ll pick up the second volume when it comes out to see how the plot progresses. I also feel that this comic would be appealing to younger readers and to anyone looking for a cute and light-hearted fantasy story. On the other hand, readers looking for a deep or complex story will likely be disappointed.
Final Score: 6.5 out of 10.
For more information on this comic, visit Kodansha Comic’s website: https://kodanshacomics.com/series/beyond-the-clouds/
What did you think of this comic? Let me know in the comments!