Mangaka: Kore Yamazaki
Status: Ongoing (Currently 3 volumes available in the U.S.)
My rating: 4.5 of 5
The old stories tell of a man named Faust who sold his soul to the demon Mephistopheles in order to gain his heart’s desires . . . but what if the stories don’t tell the whole tale? Marion finds himself intrigued when he encounters a mysterious woman by the name of Johanna Faust who first rescues him and then blackmails him into helping her in her search for a piece of, yes, the demon Mephistopheles. It’s impossible, but this vivacious, smart woman claims to actually be the Faust, the one who sparked all the old legends. Only, even if she were, she should have been dead ages ago. Intrigued, Marion finds himself unable to let her go, so he follows her as she continues on her journey to reclaim Mephistopheles from the inquisitors.
I’ve only fairly recently discovered Kore Yamazaki’s work, but this mangaka’s writing is rapidly becoming some of my favorite. It reminds me a lot of the things I love most about Fullmetal Alchemist–great characters, interesting plot, a sense of mystery, vibrant art. It has a josei flavor, and I like that it’s a bit more mature without being unnecessarily M rated; it’s actually pretty clean. It’s more that Johanna herself is old, like impossibly old–while still appearing young and having an insatiable curiosity about the world–so you get some of that depth that comes from experience playing out in her character. I enjoyed having Marion placed alongside her character, since he is in many ways like a young version of herself; their characters sort of mirror each other and provide some interesting character insights. Overall, I’ve really enjoyed the characters that have shown up in this story, and much like Fullmetal Alchemist, it looks like we may end up with a pretty extensive cast. I’m interested to see how that develops, since this series is still in its early stages (I hope, since it certainly has potential to be pretty long). So far, there’s a nice balance of present-day action and flashbacks/explanation of things that happened in Johanna’s past. There’s a lot of mystery involved in said past, which is pretty interesting; I’m very curious to see how that is developed in future volumes. Also kind of random, but I liked the author’s choice of setting for the story–a somewhat medieval Germany (of a country based off of that). European settings just work really well for Yamazaki’s stories, or rather, Yamazaki does European settings quite well. In any case, I’ve enjoyed Frau Faust a lot so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this story goes.
Mangaka: Kore Yamazaki
Status: Complete (Oneshot)
My rating: 4 of 5
She’s the daughter who was left, unwanted, with her drunken mother after the divorce while her father took her brother with him. Sometimes she just wants to escape, to disappear. One day, she finds herself in front of a building she’s never seen before, and curious, she enters to find herself in what appears to be a museum, complete with display cases . . . only the cases are completely empty.
The Invisible Museum is a thought-provoking oneshot by the author of the popular The Ancient Magus’ Bride. It’s a strange tale, almost reminiscent in a way to CLAMP’s xxxHOLiC with its strange building that’s not visible to everyone, its enigmatic proprietor, and its strange, mystical creatures. I like it. It deals with a challenging emotional situation in a way that raises good questions without claiming to have all the answers. (Fair warning that it sort-of deals with the topic of suicide/suicidal ideations, but in a generalized, non-graphic sort of way.) I love the back and forth between the girl and the proprietor–even in this short oneshot, their personalities shine through. I could totally see this story being developed into an actual series, and I would be thrilled if it ever came to pass. The art is classic Kore Yamazaki, but in a sense only parts of it (like the butterfly) seem like it at first glance–because it’s really strange to see Yamazaki’s work set in contemporary Japan as opposed to somewhere in Europe, in a highly fantasy-like setting. I really enjoyed The Invisible Museum and would recommend to anyone who likes a solid, slightly fantastic manga.
Note: I read this as an omake in the first volume of Frau Faust. I’m not sure if it’s available anywhere else or not.
Mangaka: Kore Yamazaki/Translator: Adrienne Beck
Status: Ongoing (7 volumes currently)
My rating: 5 of 5
For her entire life, Chise Hatori has been able to see fey and spirits, beings that no one around her was even aware of. You can imagine the troubles she’s had because of it. Now she finds herself orphaned and sold at auction to a strange magus with a rather horrifying skull-like visage. But surprisingly, Elias (the magus) doesn’t want to just use her for her powers–although it turns out she has some rather rare and significant powers indeed. Rather, he invites her to live with him in his home in England and apprentice under him. And gradually, Chise blossoms, going from a sad old woman convinced she brings misfortune to everyone around her to the youthful girl she should be, capable of loving and caring for those around her with a smile. And she’s not the only one who’s changing because of her presence there.
Apologies for the cruddy summary; this has to be one of the weirdest and most difficult to summarize stories I’ve come across to date. One of the reasons I’ve not read this before–most of the summaries I’d read sounded pretty awful. The trouble is that The Ancient Magus’ Bride is different from basically any manga I’ve read before, although there are certainly elements that remind me of other stories. It has a good bit of back story that develops gradually, for one thing. Also, a great deal of the story is a gradually developing drama that reads almost like a slice-of-life story–just with magic, lots and lots of magic. I really love the flavor of the magic that’s used here; it’s heavily tinged with older English folklore, enough so that it’s easy to forget sometimes that this is actually set in contemporary England. I would say that the story’s flavor is equal parts Fullmetal Alchemist (which is totally weird, I know), xxxHOLiC, and English folklore–it sounds crazy, but it’s a really beautiful combination in practice, kind of a josei/seinen magical slice-of-life story. I absolutely love the way the characters grow and develop over the course of the story, as well as the ways their relationships change over time. It’s both heartwarming and dynamic. The art goes along with this well, being unique and attractive in a clean, seinen sort of way. I would highly recommend The Ancient Magus’ Bride, and I look forward to what the mangaka will bring with the remaining volumes.