Polterguys is an unpretentious success of a story. Featuring Bree, ever-driven in her fervent studies to become a doctor, the story amps up when Bree learns five wayward ghosts already occupy her college house.
I was ready to assume a lot about the story based on that premise, but Laurianne Uy doesn’t use the familiar tropes of a harem shojo story. Yes, all of the ghosts are guys, but they are not there to look beautifully tragic. They are Bree’s friends. If it sounds simple, that’s because it is. More than anything, Polterguys is a slice-of-life tale. While there are many aspects of the story that take great advantage of its supernatural roots, it’s almost refreshing to have such a normal take on what having ghosts for friends would be like. The characters introduced are so excited to have someone new to talk to. They follow Bree, hyper-analyze her every human move, and watch her eat her meals. They tend to do most of their mothering in the house, so Bree sometimes experiences college ghost-free.
It’s probably obvious by now, but it is easy to feel comfortable with these characters very quickly. The ghosts themselves already acknowledge each other as family and it’s a fold Bree is immediately welcomed into. Bree herself is a great leading lady. She keeps the goal to become a doctor in her sights and then demonstrates the fortitude to apply herself, even when the work is tough. Her academic and social struggles are related to the reader in very human and light-hearted asides. All of this coalesces into a setting with a warm, fuzzy, approachable heart.
While Bree didn’t know she could see ghosts at the start of the story, it quickly becomes a part of her and the story moves on to tackle larger issues. Like the reaper that appears in a middle of a lecture to claim the soul of a passing ghost — yes, things like this can make it hard to pay attention in class. It is a problem that Bree and her polterdudes need to directly confront and the result is a strong foundation for where the rest of the story is heading.
The style used in Polterguys fits the story well. Uy focuses on the characters more than anything else. Their design is strong and individual, so the pace is never broken because you’re not sure who is talking. The emotion and acting of the characters is very easy to read, giving real life to most of the scenes. It’s also not a design that shies away from using chibi characters to emphasize a particularly humorous exchange. It’s the transition between chibis and full characters that allows a shorthand of expression to form: sometimes a completely drawn character will have a chibi face, and the reader gets what emotion is being portrayed. It also doesn’t look out of place, which is a real accomplishment. While the backgrounds are nothing to write home about, it is obvious that Uy knew what she was doing with them. There are some out of proportion objects and incorrect perspectives, but what’s great is that Uy drew them far more thinly then the characters, so they are almost more suggestions of a background than an actual background. Since the character work is really what the readers need for the story to work, compromising the background detail was a very smart approach.
Polterguys lists that it’s for ages thirteen and older. This is definitely a fair rating. Despite our straightedge, responsible Bree, the setting is a college environment. While there are only suggestions of alcohol, it’s likely it will come up again. More than the setting, it’s the characters and their relationships that make this a good pick for teens. We are dealing with ghosts and the afterlife, so things can get emotionally heavy for the characters. There are also those intimidating reapers to worry about, so leave the younger kids at home.
All in all, I’m very pleased with Polterguys. It gives you a cute fix while also delivering on some meaningful character growth. I’ll be looking out for more in the future.
Polterguys, vol. 1
by Laurianne Uy
Mumo Press, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: Teen (13+)