Friday, January 11, 2013

Manga Review: The Good Witch of the West (volume 1)

So, year ago I found scans of this manga (not scanlations but outright scans of the TokyoPop translation), liked it, and then heard it was based off a series of light novels that Tokyopop was also translating and decided to hold off reading the manga to see if I could read those instead (plus reading scans just feels dirty to me). Like most (all?) of TokyoPop's light novel translations they never finished (I think two out of eight were finished) and TokyoPop didn't finish the manga before they went under as well. However, JManga picked it up and if I'm reading the Japanese wikipedia page correctly translated the entire series (seven volumes plus one side story volume) and since I had some points I decided to give the series a whirl again and see if it still interested me or if I should save my points for other series instead.

The Good Witch of the West Written by Noriko Ogiwara, Art by Haruhiko Momokawa

Summary: Firiel Dee has been raised more by a kind couple than her scholarly father and while she does resent how he has a closer relationship with his assistant, a boy her age named Rune, than her she's a cheerful girl none the less. But she discovers that her father has been keeping even larger secrets from her than she could have guessed when she learns that her dead mother was in fact a princess and that she is now a candidate to be the next queen whether she wants to be or not.

The Good: Perhaps it's just me but I could tell that this story was from either the early 2000s or the 1990s, although the art did help clue me into that. There's just a particular style to fantasy (and sometimes science fiction) works from that time in anime and manga that I've noticed over the years and this story fits into that style well, with characters mumbling about the end of the world while the main character is swept up into intrigue (and some magic it looks like) which is practically a world away from her previous life. While I do tend to get cynical about stories like this if I read too much of them it was hard to be with  Firiel as our spunky lead character (another thing a lot of those stories have in common). Plus the story was paced well, it didn't linger on anything too long and flowed well from one scene to the next.

The Bad: Most of the complaints I have have to do with the art more than the story itself, it was a bit unclear what was going on in some scenes (which also struck me as a bit overly dramatic) but I was still able to follow what was happening more or less. I'm a little cautious about how just seven volumes of manga will cover eight light novel volumes (I know there was a 13 episode anime adaptation as well but that must have covered even less), I'm afraid that I'll be left hanging at the end with no way to read the rest, but unless I can find someone who's familiar with both mediums then it's just a risk I'll have to take. 

The Art: As a quick aside, I do wish that JManga had chosen a different typeface for some of the dialogue, the more "mystical" (song, prophecies, etc) bits have a hard to read type and I just skimmed over it hoping that if it was really important that the other characters will repeat it later. Other than that, you can also tell that the manga is a bit dated (it started in 2004) since some of the designs have a bit of an oddness to them that I've seen in a lot of 1990s/early 2000s sci-fi and fantasy anime and it's also completely lacking in more, how to say this, moe style art. The layout of some of the pages was also a bit hard to follow but I'm hooping that it becomes a little smoother in later volumes.

I liked this, more than I expected, and I'll have to add the rest of my volumes of my quickly growing to-read list over on JManga. Like I said earlier, books from particular times have a different feeling to them and I like the strange vibe from a lot of 90s anime/manga series and I haven't read/watched anything like that in a while so this also makes a nice change of pace, now to get the rest!