A dark-fantasy manga tinged with elements of horror, Kousuke Satake’s The Witch and the Beast intrigued me, in large part due to it’s beautiful and atmospheric-looking cover art. Satake’s detailed artwork didn’t disappoint and it’s just as lovely inside the book as on the cover, but I found the story to be a bit lacking.
Guideau and Ashaf make for quite the unusual pair. Guideau is an attractive-looking, but crass and angry, young woman and Ashaf is a refined and gentlemanly man who carries a coffin strapped to his back wherever they go. The two are on the hunt for witches, tasked by The Order of Magical Resonance with putting a stop to their wicked ways and bringing them in, but Guideau also has personal reasons for joining Ashaf on his search for these dangerous witches. A witch has put a curse on Guideau and finding them is the only hope Guideau has of having it removed. There’s just one problem: Guideau doesn’t remember anything about the witch, not even what she looks like!
I’ll start with the positives. As I mentioned in my intro, the art in The Witch and the Beast is stunning and the detailed style fits very well with the gothic feel of the story. I also found Ashaf and Guideau’s catty interactions to be frequently funny. These are people working together due to circumstances and, while Ashaf seems amused by Guideau, they are not friends and they take every opportunity to mess with and snipe at each other.
On the other hand, I wasn’t really gripped by the story and I think this was largely because I couldn’t get that invested in the characters. Guideau is very one-note; they’re rash, violent and consumed by rage. They want to track down the witch that cursed them and that’s all that they care about, they’re only working with The Order as a means to further this end and aren’t interested in helping anyone if it isn’t potentially related to tracking down their witch. Guideau is so selfish and unlikeable that I didn’t feel at all moved by they’re plight, even when it’s revealed what the witch’s curse actually is.
Ashaf doesn’t fare much better, as we learn so little about him that he winds up feeling boring. I guess you could say that he’s mysterious, but I personally found that this didn’t work in his favour and that he wound up being too enigmatic to be compelling.
This volume of The Witch and The Beast ends with a lot of questions left unanswered, such as: why did a witch put a curse on Guideau in the first place and why can’t Guideau seem to remember anything about her? It’s possible that the story might pick up as these mysteries are explored further, but I don’t think that I’ll be continuing on with the series. That said, there are enough good things here that I think this manga could be appealing to fans of dark fantasy and horror stories. It just wasn’t for me.
Final Score: 6 out of 10
What did you think of this manga? If anyone has read further ahead in the series, let me know if you think it’s worth sticking it out a little longer.
For more information on this series, visit Kodansha Comics’ website.
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