Story: Dai Chikamoto
Art: Gonbe Shinkawa
Publisher: Yen Press (@YenPress)
The Witch and The Knight Will Survive, by Day Chikamoto and Gonbe Shinkawa
WHAT IS IT?
The son of a landowner and a dangerous witch must learn to work together to stop a powerful curse in this sprawling new mature fantasy series.
Think Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles meets The Happening.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Agredios is the son of a landowner who dutifully watches over a small settlement on the edge of a forbidden woods. After returning home from a pheasant hunt one day, Ag finds all 522 people in his settlement lying dead in the streets - cold to the touch and breathless. A letter from his father explains that the witch of legend is on the move and a foul wind blew into town. That Ag must lead in his stead, if anyone remains alive to lead, that is.
Filled with rage, Ag heads into the woods to confront the witch. Coming face to face with the fearful woman, however, quickly changes his views on her dark deeds. The witch, calling herself Ganancetia, warns Ag that the curse rides the winds and will come for them once again in due time. As survivors of horrendous tragedies around the land begin wandering into the settlement, Ag must take up the mantle of margrave and lead his people to safety as danger bores down on them from all sides. To see his family safe, he must set aside his judgements of Ganancetia and learn to work alongside her to stop the supernatural plague that threatens to destroy them all.
Longtime Yen Press fans will recognize Gonbe Sinkawa’s iconic art style from their previous fantasy title The Wolf Never Sleeps. The rich blacks, expansive landscapes, and war-wrought characters shine in this new series, adding to the direness of the situation and intensity in the action sequences. This is an absolutely beautiful series.
Dai Chikamoto’s story is captivating and immediately engaging. Starting off with a slow-building moment of tension that escalates into a rage-fueled brawl, this first volume sets the stage for a fantasy epic that is both familiar and refreshing with its details and lore. The dangerous wind and the threats it carries is eluded to perfectly and leaves readers desperate for more.
Yen Press’ team of editors and translators picked perfect fonts for the intensely emotional story this manga presents. Everything from the sound effects to the painful final letter from Ag’s father have distinct styles that add to the impact of the moment, making it an engaging read.
Special praise must be given for the costume designs. The garments and weapons speak volumes about the risky world that Ag and his settlers live in, letting the artwork speak for itself without needing to do a heavy exposition dump to explain why the world is so dangerous and vile.
The cast of characters introduced in this first volume increases at a well-paced manner. We meet several individuals but they are spaced out in a manner that does not overwhelm the reader, which makes each of their introductory scenes matter and gives their personalities the chance to shine without the fine details getting lost in the chaos.
I love that Gria, Ag’s sister, is shown as a powerful and steadfast knight with incredible swordsmanship skills, and is still allowed to be feminine and soft in the process. She quickly became a favorite character and I appreciated the way she’s written and designed.
Ganancetia is shrouded in as much mystery as the deadly curse that she is associated with. Her design is phenomenal, given a botanical, almost bog-witch aesthetic, and her childlike wonder and uncensored attitude heightens the chaotic nature of her character.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
CW: Partial nudity, strong language, strong fantasy violence, heavy action and themes of death. Recommended for older teens.
The story does struggle some with its tone. It bounces from incredibly serious and heavy to slapstick and “comedic” literally within a few panels on the same page - and some of the humor does fall flat. It’s a bit jarring and feels abrupt every time it happens, it's as if the story can’t decide whether or not it wants to be an epic fantasy or a lighthearted adventure series.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Manga shelves are currently oversaturated with iseka* titles, so finding a true fantasy story with its own world building, lore, and rules is a refreshing thing. The Witch and the Knight Will Survive introduces readers to a world rich with monstrous creatures and sprawling landscapes, political and religious wars, and honest characters simply trying to survive. Though it does suffer from some tonal issues, the series is off to a strong start and has established its narrative with a memorable first volume.
Fans of the Yen Press title The Wolf Never Sleeps will recognize the familiar artwork of Gonbe Shinkawa (read my review of that here), and find themselves right at home in this similar feeling title. If you enjoy monster hunting, rich fantasy, and charming characters with intense personalities, definitely put The Witch and the Knight Will Survive on your TBR list and grab a copy when it drops on April 18th!
HOW DO I READ IT?
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*isekai is a genre where a typically regular human is transported to another world, one usually filled with magic.