And now, after several months of constantly forgetting to write about this series, here is my review of Liselotte and Witch’s Forest, by Natsuki Takaya, of Fruits Basket fame.
Liselotte and Witch’s forest is a fairly confusing manga that to me, is already better than Fruits Basket was later on. That is not to say it is not without its flaws. It has them in droves.
The manga revolves around a young former noble, Liselotte, who, with her servants Alto and Anna, winds up in a far off land (east of the east of.. something. I don’t remember) because of some reason I don’t remember. I REALLY don’t remember, and no one is commenting on it, so I can’t even look it up. But anyway, Liselotte is now in an area that is nearby a forest that is known for witches, and one day, a witch appears and offers Liselotte an apple. Liselotte is saved from this witch by a man named Engetsu (I had to look up his name..), who looks a lot like someone Liselotte knows, but with a different eye color. The majority of the rest of the book involves a cat who claims to be a witch’s familiar who does lame things like mess with laundry and calls it evil. He actually does do harm to Liselotte’s butler, Alto, and he gets sick. We learn that both Alto and Anna are with Liselotte voluntarily (and that she was rich) through fever dreams Alto has, and the cat makes the antidote because it isn’t really evil. Engetsu returns sometime during these chapters, and Alto doesn’t like him, but is stuck dealing with him. And towards the end, it’s revealed that Engetsu is probably the same guy Liselotte knows.
If my summary was confusing, that’s because the book is. That’s what I remember from book one, and I can’t explain it better than that. It is really THAT confusing. I don’t think we learn WHY Liselotte is exiled, how she knows Engetsu in the first place (another review says he’s a childhood friend, but I don’t remember that in the book), why witches like that area, how or why Alto and Anna work for Liselotte (this might be there, and I don’t remember). There are a LOT of confusing explanations, and unanswered questions. It’s almost like this is supposed to be part of an existing work, but it ISN’T. It’s a new one. Much of this book is spent on slice of life stuff, and it does take away from the book somewhat. What space is used on the stupid cat messing up laundry and Liselotte talking about a garden could have been used to explain things better. It could have had a prologue that shows how Liselotte might know Engetsu/Enrich. The lack of any means of telling us HOW she knows him is my biggest pet peeve with this book. It bothered me, and was never ANSWERED. We’re just supposed to ASSUME she does. I also didn’t care for Engetsu, and as I know he’s supposed to be the main love interest for Liselotte, I’m stuck with him. He almost had no personality, except for the ‘I need food’ thing. AKA another eternally hungry character. YAY. I was more interested in Alto and Anna than him, and they’re supposed to be secondary characters. But mostly, I was the most interested in reading about Alto, because he’s the only other character aside from Liselotte that had a personality. I was kind of hoping HE might be the love interest despite the age issue, just because I dislike Engetsu so much. If there is even that much of an age difference between Alto and Liselotte. I don’t remember what it was. And finally, there is the subject of witches and how they affect the plot. I am interested to see how witches tie into this story, aside from the introduction and the cat,. It’s in the title, for crying out loud. Where are the witches? Is Liselotte supposed to become one eventually? Is there some super evil witch who wants Liselotte dead?The unanswered questions, semi-confusing narrative, and boring characters made me enjoy this a lot less than I should have, because I normally love fantasy stories. Especially fantasy and romance stories. A 2 of 5 for story, because it was just SO confusing and so many questions are left unanswered.
The characters are OK. Like I said, Alto was interesting, though Anna was a bit boring. I did NOT like Engetsu, and the cat was just pointless. Liselotte herself was OK, but too much like Tohru Honda for my liking. I hope she gets her own personality quirks eventually, but for now, she’s only OK. I really wish Takaya would stop copying Tohru, because I think minus the girl from Tsubasa: Those With Wings, her heroines are all Tohru, pretty much.
For art, well, that’s another story. Liselotte and Witch’s Forest looks amazing. Natsuki Takaya’s art improved a ton by the end of Fruits Basket, and this looks like that. I loved the art. The characters are well drawn, tone is done well, backgrounds look good.. I don’t remember there really being any issues with it. The ART gets a perfect 5/5, because it really is great.
Overall, the first book gets a 2.5/5. It’s decent (still better than later Fruit’s Basket books, with it’s nothing but drama and yelling at the end), but REALLY confusing. I really was interested in finding out what happens and the answers to the burning questions that remain unanswered in the first book (maybe that was the point.. leave a ton of questions to make people buy book 2), so I do own book 2. I’m really hoping it helps explain book 1 better, and makes me want to buy book 3. If you want to check it out, do so, but go to a library first, or check Amazon for a cheaper copy/wait until Barnes and Noble or Books a Million have a sale. It is not an instant masterpiece, and therefore is not worth the $15 price tag without trying it out first. I don’t know why Yen charges $15 for this, but yet the omnibus for Twinkle Stars is $20, but that’s what it is, and it certainly isn’t worth $15.