Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Manga Review: Dark Fable of the Forest

Another Emanga title, I would say I was trying to get to some of the more dark fantasy/horror ones right around Halloween but since this one is a fantasy shojo title to start with it was already fairly high on my reading list. Too bad for me it ended up being more gothic than fantasy since I've never been a big fan of gothic works.

Dark Fable of the Forest by Yuriko Matsukawa

Summary: Alyssa is an American college student who is interning at a mystery magazine where 90% of the stories they investigate turn out to be bunk. However, that means that the last 10% are real and Alyssa's goal is to investigate those 10%. Although, just because you know a mystery is real doesn't mean you understand it at first, or that it wants to be understood at all.

The Good: I have to admit I like how the story set itself up as acknowledging that most supernatural mysteries out there are fake, even if all the stories it investigated turned out to be true, since it was just enough world building for the story to feel grounded and in a supernatural story you have to let the audience know what's possible and what's not or else it will feel like the writer just doesn't care about their story. While it was a bit unexpected I was happy that I got to review a full story again, even if the pacing was a bit shaky so it was a little hard to tell that the story was going to wrap up in just two volumes. 

The Bad: Not exactly a fault of e-manga but I wasn't able to download the first volume my normal way, as a PDF, so I had to do some kind of special download for the iPhone in an odd format and I really don't recommend it. I can't recall what the exact name of the format was but it didn't scale as nicely and turned the pages the wrong way, thank god emanga puts a link on all of their "Stop! You're reading the wrong way!" pages so you can skip to the real beginning, just download it as a PDF if you plan to read it on your phone guys. As for the actual story, it felt a little choppy to me, as if the manga-ka originally planned for it to be a longer, more episodic series and then decided to turn the first arc into the main one of the story. That could have just been a miss-impression on my part, feeling like the story didn't fit since I expected something else, but something about it didn't just click for me. I wasn't a fan of the fact that one character vanishes and another who looks just like them takes their place, since it wasn't even used for a romantic plot point I can't figure out for the life of me why the manga-ka did that (could she not think of a different character design?). The other characters weren't much more distinctive, some felt more like a collection of tropes than anything else and really everything just felt a bit bland. The story was nothing new, the characters weren't new, I just couldn't get excited about any of it and when the endgame is finally revealed I more or less rolled my eyes that another cliche had been introduced and wondered how much longer until the end.

The Art: Yep this is 1990s shojo alright. We have the impossibly long faces, somewhat shaggy hair on everyone, and what I think of as odd fashion. One thing that did catch my eye however was just how full each page was, not that each panel was especially detailed but there are a lot of panels on each page and practically none of them had plain white backgrounds. Sure some of them only had a prop or maybe some reaction lines or screentones in the background but it never felt like the manga-ka/their assistants got lazy and didn't fill it in*.

Sorry for the short, delayed review folks, a combination of real life stress (the same stress that has me going to a reduced blogging schedule) and a really persistent head cold kept delaying this. Well, that and as you can tell, this was just so bland that in the end there's not much to say. I'm not a big fan of gothic stories to start with and this story just wasn't interesting to me at all. For fans of gothic sort-of-romances however both volumes are available on emanga.com and other online retailers and there is no print version as of this time.

*although I do keep meaning to pull a whole bunch of shojo manga from the past four decades and compare the usage of white space vs screentones, I feel like this is actually another stylistic choice which dates rather clearly.....