Tag Archives: Liselotte & Witch’s Forest manga review

Manga Review: Liselotte & Witch’s Forest Vol. #3

Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket was one of the most popular shojo titles in the United States in the previous decade. Now Yen Press has released Takaya-sensei’s Liselotte & Witch’s Forest, which showcases the mangaka’s distinctive art style, a new upbeat heroine, and a fantasy setting. Read on for the review of Volume 3 (For reviews of other volumes, click here).

Back cover blurb

Liselotte, daughter of a feudal lord, has been exiled to the lands east of the east of the east, now living with her servants Anna and Alto, the mysterious Engetsu, and the impertinent familiar Yomi at the edge of the witch’s forest. Despite Alto’s objections, Lise’s new family somehow continues to grow. But her troublesome past has caught up to them and Engetsu is seriously injured. Can Lise save him and also continue to live as optimistically as her heart desires?

The Review

Engetsu is in dire straits at the end of Volume 2, thanks to the fight with Liz’s would-be assassin, and with help from Yomi, Liz seeks supernatural help from the massive tree that grows though their house. Eiche trees, like witches, are magical, but their power appears innate rather than something learned. And even though witches are the ones with a bad reputation, the spirit of the Eiche tree makes them look positively benevolent in comparison.(It’s not the witches you have to beware of–it’s the trees!)

Far from being swayed by Liz’s bold demands for help, the Eiche cuts her down with a vicious verbal, then physical assault. In the midst of this encounter, we discover what En endured to return from the dead and the limitations of his current existence. Everything about the episode serves to demonstrate En’s extraordinary devotion to Liz, which underscores the true cost of his restoration when the pair returns to the real world.

With the mystery of Engetsu/Enrich connection revealed, a different mystery arises: Enrich’s origins. After the Eiche encounter, En’s behavior changes so drastically it’s as if he’s a completely different person. Faced with this new,  roguish En, Liz makes the surprisingly astute observation that if they think En’s changed that just means they didn’t know him well enough to begin with. Indeed, even though Enrich knew so much about Liz before, she knew very little about him, and that unknown history before he became her servant looks like it will be central to the next phase of the story.

The angst and despair of the first half of the volume is emotionally draining, thus for the second half, Takaya-sensei reverts back to bird-brained humor. Hilde and Myrte return and wind up incorporated into Liz’s household, which, as Alto describes it, is turning into “a supernatural menagerie.” This of course provides the framework for situational humor between grumpy Alto, prickly Yomi, and their high-strung new housemates. While Liz and En’s interactions retain an element of melancholy, the silly squabbling that surrounds them helps to keep the mood light.

Extras include story thus far, character profiles, embedded author’s notes, six bonus illustrations in color, translation notes, and a sneak peek of Volume 4.

In Summary

En has been the one rescuing Liz all this time, but everything changes after Liz begs the Eiche spirit to return En to her. Now she must strive against the impossible to restore the bond they once shared. In the meantime, a witches’ spat puts Hilde and Myrte onto Liz’s doorstep. Between Liz’s love tragedy and everyone’s new living arrangements, it’s a rollercoaster of ups and down in the land east of the east of the east.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Liselotte & Witch’s Forest Vol. #2

Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket was one of the most popular shojo titles in the United States in the previous decade. Now Yen Press has released Takaya-sensei’s Liselotte & Witch’s Forest, which showcases the mangaka’s distinctive art style, a new upbeat heroine, and a fantasy setting. Read on for the review of Volume 2 (For reviews of other volumes, click here).

Back cover blurb

Liselotte, the daughter of a feudal lord, has been exiled to the land’s easternmost reaches by order of her older brother. Despite the bitter past that put her in these straits, Lise enjoys her new life with her twin attendants, Alto and Anna, the familiar Yomi, and Engetsu, a young man who not only harbors a secret, but also bears a striking resemblance to an old acquaintance, Enrich. However, Lise’s quaint idyll is shattered when none other than a witch comes calling!

The Review

Takaya-sensei mentions in her notes that “Volume 1 unfolded at a relatively leisurely pace.” Well, she makes up for it with Volume 2. She starts with flashbacks and a conversation with the local villagers that shed light on Liselotte’s circumstances and brings context to En and Liselotte’s mutual attachment. His reappearance in Liz’s life is no accident. And random though Yomi’s entrance seemed, he also has a reason for hanging around Liz and En.

Then the witch from Volume 1 reappears, this time by Liz’s house. Overall, the illustrations do an excellent job of creating an air of tension and mystery. Unfortunately for one forest scene, sound effects are key to that terrifying atmosphere, and I spent several confused seconds hunting down Yen Press’ tiny sound effects translations (which are almost buried by the original Japanese sound effects) before I could figure out what was happening. To offset the creepiness of the witches, Takaya-sensei inserts silliness in the form of Liz’s blithe decision to embrace the witches as neighbors. Thus continues the somewhat hackneyed joke of Liz’s inedible food.

Her ditzy attitude seems inappropriate for approaching a powerful enemy, but it turns out to be entirely fitting. In one fell swoop, Liz exposes the witch and her familiar to be just as silly as Liz herself. That discovery is a letdown, especially after all that hair-raising anticipation, but Hilde the inept, crybaby witch does make a suitable companion for Liz and company.

Takaya-sensei, however, quickly replaces the witches with another enemy, one whom Liz definitely won’t offer a slice of cake. Magic takes a backseat to swordplay when an assassin explodes on the scene. Apparently, humans are more dangerous than witches, and we get to witness En’s heroics in a duel interspersed with glimpses of a past fight. Some of En’s dagger skills are a bit difficult to follow, but overall, the battle brings Volume 2 to a thrilling and emotional close.

Extras include embedded author’s notes, the title page in color, and translation notes.

In Summary

Volume 2 fills the blanks of Volume 1 to make what felt like a random assemblage of characters without clear direction into the tale of tragic lovers grasping at a second chance. Takaya-sensei had done a marvelous job of painting the witches as a malevolent threat to Liz, so when she reveals their true nature, it’s a disappointment. However, they’re quickly replaced with another adversary, one that sheds light on the past and leaves us with a heart-pounding cliffhanger.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Liselotte & Witch’s Forest Vol. #1

Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket was one of the most popular shojo titles in the United States in the previous decade. Now Yen Press has released Takaya-sensei’s Liselotte & Witch’s Forest, which showcases the mangaka’s distinctive art style, a new upbeat heroine, and a fantasy setting. Read on for the review of Volume 1. (For reviews of other volumes, click here).

Back cover blurb

Despite being completely hopeless at endeavors like farming and cooking, Liselotte, a young lady of noble birth and guardian to twins Alto and Anna, picks up and moves to a remote land. At the easternmost reaches of her new home lies a forest where it’s said witches roam. When Lise one day finds herself at the receiving end of an attack by one such witch, she’s saved by the sudden appearance of a young man named Engetsu. Though they’re strangers, Engetsu is remarkably similar to someone she already knows…

The Review

If you’re a fan of Natsuki Takaya’s art and particular brand of ditzy and big-hearted heroine, you’re likely to fall in love with this title’s main character, Liselotte. For those familiar with Fruits Basket, Liselotte is pretty much a blonde, blue-eyed version of Tohru, with the same energetic optimism and trusting nature. However, whereas Tohru was a hard-working poor orphan, Liselotte was born to privilege and would probably starve without the help of her two servants. In addition, Liselotte’s setting is not contemporary Japan but an unnamed European-style fantasy land where witches exist.

Takaya-sensei mentions in an author’s note that she aims to “make it a relatively easygoing story,” and the tale starts off that way. The first several pages consist of Liselotte driving her considerably younger but much more capable servant boy Alto crazy with her attempts to do chores in their new home. Then the mood abruptly shifts when Liselotte gets attacked by a witch. This isn’t your chipper moe-style witch, but one who’s dangerous and malicious, and Takaya-sensei does an excellent job conveying the suddenness and creepiness of the assault. Fortunately for Liselotte, a young man named Engetsu rescues her, and despite his spacey behavior and strange clothes, he’s remarkably similar to someone she once knew.

While the magical elements put this series into the fantasy category, it’s difficult to tell what kind of journey Takaya-sensei’s taking us on. There are plenty of comical interactions, including a lot of bad cooking and growly stomach humor, but while the scenes are entertaining and establish character relationships, they don’t set a clear direction for the plot. In addition, the witch’s forest loses some of its ominous aura when the attack on Liselotte gets followed by an invasion from a witch’s familiar who’s about as terrifying and destructive as a puppy dog. However, Takaya-sensei keeps the narrative moving by revealing bits of Liselotte’s past, which, for such a simple-minded character, is surprisingly complicated. Engetsu, on the one hand, remains largely a mystery, but judging from the emotion that overflows from the drawings whenever he and Liselotte are together, romance will brew between the two.

I should mention that the book doesn’t include translation notes, which may prove problematic for manga newbies, especially in one particular scene regarding the honorific “-sama.” However, the book does include embedded author’s notes, two color illustrations, and two full-spread black and white illustrations.

In Summary

Natsuki Takaya spins a new fantasy tale with a girl determined to create a new home for herself beside a witch forest. In addition to our super-positive heroine, we have a grouchy butler, an ever-supportive maid, an adorable fireball of a familiar, and a mysterious young man. It’s unclear where this group is headed, but for now, readers can simply enjoy the lively antics of this noisy and unusual household.

First published at the Fandom Post.