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Witch Hat Atelier (Vol. 2)

Coco and her cohort discover that the portal they fell through at the end of the last volume led to a magic maze, which is guarded fiercely by the dragon that’s hounding them. Agott, Tetia, and Richeh think it’s Coco’s fault they’re trapped. When they bed down in a safe place for the night, Tetia conjures a soft, warm cloud (a spell of her own creation!) for them to sleep in. That gives Coco an idea. What if they used Tetia’s spell to lull the dragon to sleep and sneak past it towards the way out? It will take many spells drawn in tandem for it to work. Can the girls get out?

Meanwhile, Master Qifrey has made a discovery while looking for the girls. Both the Brimmed Caps (evil witches who shield their faces) and the Knights Moralis (kind of a police force for magic users) could be after Coco – for the same reason. How can he keep her safe so she can learn magic and free her mother?

This manga likes to leave off on middle-of-the-story cliffhangers between volumes. It took me a minute to remember what happened at the end of the last volume and thus make sense of the beginning of this one. It ended much the same way as the first: that is, we wrapped up the arc started in Vol. 1 in the middle of Vol. 2; the middle of Vol. 2 started a new arc, ended in the middle of that arc, and will conclude at the beginning of Vol. 3. This is unlike other manga I’ve tried which wraps up each arc neatly within the volume. I hope I don’t have such a long stretch between this volume and the next!

We continue the world-building here with a society of both evil witches and the knights who keep magic users in line. It will be interesting to see how they operate and what their interest is in Coco. There is also some character development and backstory, regarding Agott in particular, that will make for a fascinating foil to Coco.

I said in my review of Vol. 1 that I liked the classical attention to detail to everyday items and chores. That is shaping up to be a common theme in this manga. One of the “lessons” Qifrey teaches Coco is to use magic for everyday applications so it “sticks.” As a result, he asks her to be in charge of a meal, which means practice for her, and gives us an idea of how magic is used for cooking in this world – and what kind of food they eat!

To me, this is a fantasy manga reminiscent of both Harry Potter and The Rithmatist (Brandon Sanderson), with the slice of life elements of A Bride’s Story, which I’ve grown to love. Looking forward to the next volume!

-Kathleen

Shirahama, Kamome. Witch Hat Atelier (Vol. 2). 2019.

Magus of the Library (Vol. 4)

Theo returns to Aftzaak after passing his kafna exam for his training! Not only did he pass, but so did everyone he met on the road and in the exam: Ohgga, Natica, Sala, Peperino, Mihona, and Alv. As he meets the rest of his cohort, he begins to wonder anew how he fits in among them. As their entire first year is spent in training, he has some time to get to know them. Their class is led by Professor Xtoh, a hard and firm woman who does not tolerate softness. It’s during the Matriculation Ceremony that Theo sees Sedona again – as the head of the Protection’s Office. He meets her afterward and offers to return the book she gave him, but she encourages him to keep it. He vows to meet her again after he becomes a kafna. Will he be able to keep his promise?

I wasn’t expecting this series to have this big an ensemble cast of characters. It was a little overwhelming for me. The chapter breaks each had a few characters and bios on them, which did help, but I feel that a “cast of characters” page in volumes going forward would be very beneficial.

The most fun thing for me in this volume were the flipped gender roles. Theo is assigned a room with the only two other boys who passed the kafna exam: Alv and newcomer Sumomo. While very smart, he is intimidated by women as he comes from a family almost exclusively of kafna! At one point he explains how the women in his family had to become almost aggressively assertive so they would be taken seriously. The context of this passage is comical, but it was funny in part because it’s true!

Other than that, the poetic prose and rich lore and artwork keep me coming back. Looking forward to more!

– Kathleen

Izumi, Mitsu. Magus of the Library (Vol. 4). 2020.

Witch Hat Atelier (Vol. 1)

Coco is a young girl who lives in a world suffused with magic. She’s not a witch – witches are born, not made, everyone knows – but she wishes she was. She lives with her mom in the tailor shop they run. Upon a visit from a male witch named Qifrey, Coco discovers that magic is drawn, with a pen and ink, instead of spoken aloud as everyone had thought. She decides to try drawing from a book she had been given as a child – and accidentally traps her mother in crystal. Qifrey takes her to his atelier, his magic home, in order to train Coco as a witch’s apprentice and undo the spell.

The fantasy manga I’ve started so far all have a great knack for fascinating world building. The magic system of drawing, while not that new, is refreshing. I can always appreciate stories that show how hard work artistry can be 😉 What’s interesting to me is that a point is made to show that magic is everywhere in this world, but only a few people are shown how to use it… instead of the other way around where only a few people have magic within them in a non-magical world.

The art was cute, but thankfully, not over-the-top cute. It leans toward the cutesy style without being too much. There’s a classical quality to it, somehow. The light is either softly diffused or very dramatic, and a good measure of attention is given to the indoor scenes of kitchens and workshops and their respective tools.

Looking forward to the next volume!

– Kathleen

Shirahama, Kamome. Witch Hat Atelier (Vol. 1). 2017.

Magus of the Library (Vol. 2)

Now that Theo Fumis is seven years older, he is on his way to the great city of Aftzaak to take the Kafna Exam! He has not grown out of his desire to become a librarian, and wishes to give back the book that Kafna Sedona lent him when she visited his home village. Aftzaak is a long way away, and there are many grand sites and places to visit along the way. Of course, there are friends to be made as well: Mihona, another Kafna hopeful on her way to the exam; Alv, a street-wise youngster; and a citlapol (albino creature) with two tails that Theo names Uira. Together, they travel and arrive in Aftzaak. The Kafna exam is, by all accounts, a grueling experience… can Theo even make it through the first part?

I adore every part of this manga. Of course, I love it because librarians are central to the story 😉 But the worldbuilding is absolutely phenomenal. Each chapter of this volume takes place in a different city along Theo’s route. The chapter pages have illustrations and information about the city, or a monument or natural phenomena nearby. Each city has its own distinct artistic flavor that only grows in scale the closer we get to Aftzaak. It’s interesting to see not only Theo’s character, but the art and world evolve right along with him.

As mentioned in my review of Volume 1, it appears that much of the artistic influence was taken from Middle Eastern and Indian (by that I mean India the Asian country, not Native American tribes; my apologies for any confusion) cultures. It’s more of the same here, in costumes and architecture. In essence, a blend of all of my favorite things.

The grand scale of this literary adventure, coupled with my visual Kryptonite, ensures that I’ll be following this manga very closely.

-Kathleen

Izumi, Mitsu. Magus of the Library (Vol. 2). 2019.

Vinland Saga: Book 1

I used to read manga in high school. My favorite titles were Fruits Basket, Chibi Vampire, and Mars. But with that interest came a curse… I could never, ever, no matter how hard I tried or how many times I restarted the series, finish it. So, I would have called myself fans of these, but never actually finished them. Good job me XD

(Lucky I’d never been spoiled for the ending of any, especially Furuba, given how popular it was at the time and how many of my friends were into it, too.)

I came across this in the computer at work and ordered it for the heck of it. I was quite surprised when it came in and I saw it was a manga. But I figured I’d try it anyway – maybe the curse had since been broken!

Thorfinn is a young Viking, a deadly warrior for someone of his age. He’s got plenty of reason to be. His village was destroyed when he was a child, and his family slaughtered. He belongs now to Askelaad, the very man who murdered his father. Thorfinn has no choice but to go with Askeladd into battle, but is plotting, ever plotting, to challenge him to a duel and avenge his father’s death. Ever since he was a child, listening to Leif Erikson’s stories, he’s wanted to be a Viking explorer, but not like this…

… I’m sad to say I’m still under the curse. I couldn’t finish it and gave up about halfway through. The beginning chapters were action-packed and moved incredibly fast, and I was sucked in! But then it started taking us back to Thorfinn’s past and it just stayed there. It seemed to want to reveal his entire backstory in one go, and I’m not really about that fast reveal. The art is pretty good, dynamic and more atmospheric than I remember manga being. There is a looot of blood in the battle scenes though, so watch out for that if you’re queasy. The history seemed to be well-researched. I can definitely see how it would be engaging for another reader, but sadly, I’m just not that reader!

– Kathleen

Yukimura, Makoto. Vinland Saga: Book 1. English translation: 2013.

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