March 06, 2021

Donna Howard's Book of Friends

Donna Howard investigates the provenance of art and antiques with the help of dead people only she can see.

These "personages" or "shades" are not like the supernatural entities in Ghost Whisperer and The Sixth Sense. They are the furthest thing from Patrick Swayze in Ghost. Or even Meiko in Anohana, who returns as a ghost to fix the problems caused by her accidental death.

They aren't trying to reconnect to the living or find a way to the "light." Most don't care about the living world at all, and only become interested in Donna after she becomes interested in them.

In this respect, her "second sight" resembles that of Takashi Natsume in Natsume's Book of Friends. Natsume's gift (inherited from his grandmother) allows him to see the Shinto kami and youkai that inhabit the world all around us, but go unseen by most mortals.

An important difference is that, in Natsume's world, if he can see the youkai, the youkai can cause him all sorts of problems in turn. The personages in Donna's world cannot physically affect her, though they can haunt human beings if they put some effort into it.

The personages themselves know no more about themselves than they did when they were alive, which means Donna has to do her own share of legwork to bring a case to its conclusion. Though they can serve as unseen spies.

A personage reflects a particular aspect of the life they lived, like a game avatar that keeps playing its assigned role even when the user has signed off. After death, they remain tied to the time and place and things they formed the strongest emotional attachments to when alive.

In this respect, they closely resemble tsukumogami, objects that acquire a kami or spirit after being used by humans for a hundred years. For Donna's personages, the kami are the people themselves. Though she cannot see them until they have aged for at least a century.

Hence Donna's interest in history. She can't help but see the past playing out around her.

Once in a while, Donna does chance across an actual ghost, a spirit that is the fully realized soul of a deceased person. These situations raise the existential dilemma posed in Angel Beats, whether the ghost should remain in the comfortable limbo of the "in-between" or move on.

Each book in the Donna Howard series focuses on the item the personage in question is attached to, and what becomes of the personage, the item, and the people who come into contact with them. This being a mystery series, an untimely death is often involved.

Donna Howard Mysteries

Silver Spoon

Related links

Angel Beats (CR NF)
Anohana (CR Fun NF)
Natsume's Book of Friends (CR)
We Rent Tsukumogami (CR HD Tubi)

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