Violence, magic, and gorgeous characters are three things that are beyond certain to get me excited about picking up a manga and three things The Witch and the Beast has plenty of. Produced by mangaka Kousuke Satake and localized in English by Kodansha Comics, The Witch and the Beast is marketed as one part Full Metal Alchemist and one part Cowboy Bebop. With that combination, it would be an understatement to say that my expectations were high. The manga focuses on powerful women, a battle of good and evil, vengeance, and of course a world of magic that doesn’t shy away from darkness.
In The Witch and the Beast we follow Guideau and Ashaf. The former is a feral girl with long fangs, the eyes of a beast, and a penchant for rushing in with her fists regardless of her opponent’s strength. And the latter is a soft-spoken man with delicate features and a coffin strapped to his back. This ominous pair appears one day in a town that’s in thrall to a witch who has convinced the townsfolk she’s their hero. But Ashaf and Guideau know better. Members of The Order, an organization that keeps magic users in line. What’s more, Guideau has a score to settle as she tries to find the witch who cursed her.
The Witch and the Beast Volume 1 is magically dark and violent. From the opening, the irreverence and aggression we see from Guideau is exciting. She cusses, she fights, and her anger is palpable. On the other hand, Ashaf is a calming and logical force that cares deeply for his partner’s wellbeing. Their dynamic is one we’ve seen before, yet the twist of what’s in the coffin makes it unique.
While Satake’s story is phenomenal, it’s their artwork that is breathtaking. Balancing pulpy noir and fantastical aesthetics, Satake’s debut manga is a masterclass in showcasing dynamic movement and adding layers of magic to single panels. From breathtaking splash pages to dark sequences of powers awakening, every single inch of the page is utilized. Additionally, Satake illustrates gruesome moments in such a way that the grotesque looks gorgeous. Showcasing dismemberment and blood splatters pushed against grand displays of power with rose petals and birds, it all sings.
That being said, the twists offered in just one volume work to keep the reader engaged by subverting most fantasy tropes and building out the world. Truthfully, every time I had questions about how magic or The Order worked, Satake offered up explanations that focused on world-building without feeling like pure exposition.
Overall, I can’t recommend The Witch and the Beast Volume 1 enough. Kousuke Satake’s work with both story and art is phenomenal. As a debut, it’s dark, violent, and so very gorgeous and ultimately lives up to the promise of Full Metal Alchemist mixed with Cowboy Bebop.
The Witch and the Beast Volume 1 is available now wherever books are sold.
The Witch and the Beast Volume 1
I can’t recommend The Witch and the Beast Volume 1 enough. Kousuke Satake’s work with both story and art is phenomenal. As a debut, it’s dark, violent, and so very gorgeous and ultimately lives up to the promise of Full Metal Alchemist mixed with Cowboy Bebop.