Tag Archives: Liselotte & Witch’s Forest

Manga Review: Liselotte & Witch’s Forest Vol. #5

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 5 (For reviews of other volumes, click here).

Back Cover Blurb

In her exile to the east of the east of the east, Liselotte’s rambunctious house attempts to coexist with the witch’s forest. Hoping to break down the seal Vergue has cast, Anna ventures out on her own to pay the witch a visit. Despite a being hurt by humans in the past, can Anna convince Vergue to give people another chance, and to live among them again? Meanwhile, Lise is shocked by a familiar looking visitor surveying the nearby village.

The Review

In Takaya-sensei’s previous series Fruits Basket, there were a lot of antics and silly interactions, but once you got to know the characters, you discovered each one carried deep trauma. If you enjoy that sort of story, you can eat your heart out in Volume 5 of Liselotte and Witch’s Forest. The previous couple volumes delved into Liz’s tragic past, and now we shift to the rest of the cast, starting with En.

Given his memory loss, he doesn’t have much past to dwell on. The bits he retains suggest a desperate existence before he entered the Berenk household. However, his current circumstances aren’t particularly ideal either, as an interaction with the Eiche spirit reminds us. This is the first time we really get to delve into En’s thoughts, and there’s dark humor in his blunt assessment of Liz and his utter incomprehension of why he was so devoted to her.

Next up are Anna and Vergue. Liz is determined to befriend Vergue despite his attack on the house and repeated rejections, but interestingly, she’s not the one to crack through Vergue’s shell. On the surface, ever-smiling Anna doesn’t have anything in common with the irritable male witch. However, she recognizes the similarities they bear, and when she tells Vergue about the upbringing she and Alto suffered, it’s a confession, a rebuke, and an invitation for him to strive for something better.

The POV then switches from Anna to Vergue. We don’t get as many details on his wretched past but like the twins and Liz, he suffered undeservedly when he was a human. However, Anna’s words do impact him, and it shows in his actions, even if his speech and manner remain prickly as ever.

The focus then returns to the main character with Liz hearing about Heil Village’s spring festival. While it is strange how Liz’s companions unanimously encourage her to see it, the trip there gives Liz and En a chance to be alone. It also allows Liz to cross paths with Richard, the brother that exiled her. Liz’s guilt at seeing her brother isn’t too surprising, but what is surprising is En’s displeasure over the situation, especially since he’s lost his memories of Richard. If a visit from the regional lord isn’t enough, Woglinde, the true witch of the frontier forest, also returns home. With so many powerful characters in Heil Village, I’m anticipating something big in the works.

Extras include four illustrations in full color, story-thus-far, character line-up, and embedded author’s notes.

In Summary

If you like characters who bear the scars of abuse and rejection, you will have much to enjoy in this volume. If you prefer lovey-dovey moments, you’ll find a beautifully illustrated romantic scene between Liz and En, although En’s behavior is somewhat perplexing given his evaluation of Liz in the volume’s opening pages. There’s not much brawling in these pages, but with the arrival of Liz’s brother and the return of the witch Woglinde, the stage seems to be preparing for something big.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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Manga Review: Liselotte & Witch’s Forest Vol. #4

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 4 (For reviews of other volumes, click here).

Back Cover Blurb

Liselotte’s house in the east of the east of the east has become even livelier with the additions of the witch Hilde and her familiar, Myrte. But one day, Vergue, a witch who hates all humans, attacks the household to drive Lise and the others away! Why is it so difficult to live a peaceful life?

The Review

Till now, little information has been given about the place in which the characters reside. Now we learn that The Land East of the East of the East is part of Erstes, a country that once achieved military victory with the help of witches. Considering it’s already Volume 4, these basic details about Erstes are late in coming, plus the way they’re presented (in the form of a schoolchildren’s lesson) is rather heavy-handed. However, they do give us a clearer picture of the society from which Liz has been exiled.

This provides a good place to introduce our next new character. Captain Erwin is head of the frontier outpost near the witch’s forest. However, he’s originally from the capital where he served Liz’s brother. He not only monitors Liz’s activities but seems aware of the true circumstances behind her banishment. He also has his own power when it comes to witches. Despite the lazy front he puts up, he is definitely not an ordinary human, and given his complicated background, he’s likely to get into the thick of Liz and Engetsu’s future affairs.

In the meantime, Liz continues to bravely strive forward in her hinterlands life. For fans of Fruits Basket, Liz is definitely a Tohru-type heroine: a cheerful dimwit who remains intensely positive despite the tragedies in her life. She’s also able to connect with social outcasts, as evidenced by the six people now living in her house. Now that Hilde and Myrte are part of the family, it’s almost a given that Liz will find a way to draw Vergue in, despite his violent efforts to drive her away.

As for the romantic arc between Liz and En, there are a couple poignant moments between the two, but overall, the mood is more comic than sweet. En without memories is sarcastic and blunt, which makes him a lot more interesting than when he was so unconditionally agreeable toward Liz. Judging from a brief interaction with Erwin, this new En is closer to his true personality and hints about a past I’m curious to learn more about.

Extras include four illustrations in full color, story-thus-far and character line-up, embedded author’s notes, translation notes, and a nine-page preview of Volume 5.

In Summary

This volume doesn’t so much move forward as it delves backward. Lessons, remembrances, and flashbacks provide a better understanding of the factors separating humans and witches and the circumstances that brought our characters where they are now. So aside from Vergue wrecking Liz’s house, not too much happens in these six chapters, but they fill in a lot of holes in the story.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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.