Fantasies may be a dime a dozen in girls’ manga, but every once in a while a title full of floating flowers and magic surprises you. The Good Witch of the West (which, in case you’re wondering, has nothing at all to do with Oz, despite the reminiscent title) eschews magical girl costumes, cute sidekicks, and saving the universe. Instead we get a bewildered royal heir, a distant guardian, and threatening but shadowy court politics. In short, this title reads like the beginning of an epic fantasy, in all of the best ways. Firiel is a country noble, who dreams of court fanciness but in fact happier among her rustic family of servants and reclusive scholars. Her father is the one sticking point – consumed by astronomy, he rarely even notices his daughter, and her long dead mother seems to haunt their every moment together. Rune, her father’s equally close-mouthed assistant, is bookish and stubborn, but his sullenness covers how deeply he cares for Firiel. When Firiel attends what she thinks of as a lark of a ball, the evening ends in disaster. Her royal heritage is revealed to both allies and enemies, but what is her true destiny? Was her mother really a royal princess in line for the throne? The beginning of the series zeroes in on the problems her new status brings. With her history suddenly rewritten, and Rune her only ally, Firiel doubts her memories, her place, and her ability to navigate a suddenly much more complicated world. Firiel displays the iron will of a queen, but she’s at sea when it comes to seeing the subtleties of court language. The art of this series is lush and on the surface, incredibly cute – Firiel has the round face and eyes of a typical manga heroine. Clever use of black and a fine sense of drama keep the title from feeling saccharine, and instead highlights the pain of a naïve young woman discovering the world is far from a kind or truthful place.
The Good Witch of the West, vol. 1
by Noriko Ogiwara and Haruhiko Momokawa
Tokyopop , 2006