A Dark Fable of the Forest Volumes 1 and 2 by Yuriko Matsukawa
As I started reading A Dark Fable of the Forest I thought that the art style looked pleasingly familiar, and then I remembered that I’d previously read Matsukawa’s other books published on emanga.com, Late Advent and two collections of short stories. While I enjoyed her other books, I think A Dark Fable of the Forest is my current favorite manga by this author, simply because there are some enjoyably gothic elements in the book that are getting me in the Halloween mood.
Dark Fable of the Forest Vol. 1 is available on emanga.com
Alyssa is a student who works at a reporting agency that specializes in paranormal and unexplained happenings. As she’s hunting down a myth about a particular type of rare bird that lives in a forest in Austria where young children frequently disappear, a strange brooding man dressed all in black seems to observe her. Black birds and dark feathers are interspersed with panels showing Alyssa’s investigations, creating a bit of a foreboding air. Alyssa and her companion are rescued by the mysterious stranger, who remains silent as he hosts them in his house, taking time out now and then to brush the hair of an elaborate porcelain doll. Alyssa is determined to investigate the silently mysterious Chevalier Bayard Gran d’Or, but there are events happening in the forest that are being caused more by human greed than the supernatural.
As the story progresses, Alyssa begins to learn more about her mysterious protector as she continues with her investigations into other unexplained phenomena. The porcelain doll ends up actually being a sentient being named Pineau Rouge, but it is amusingly over the top to see the brooding Chevalier carrying around what looks like a miniaturized Victorian girl who has no problem expressing herself.
A Dark Fable of the Forest Vol. 2 is available on emanga.com
The series settles into a well-executed monster of the week manga, as the Chevalier keeps popping up just when Alyssa needs him if she’s investigating murderous plants, unexplained appearances of saints on castle walls, or issues with her own relatives. The episodic nature of the manga is nicely balanced by the developing relationship between Alyssa and the Chevalier, and the suggestion that they may share a connection other than happening to be in the same place at the same time far too often for coincidence. Matsukawa’s illustrations are detailed and attractive, and the Chevalier has enough bird like characteristics in his character design to seem quite otherworldly. Alyssa actually becomes the very type of thing that she’s investigating towards the end of this series, as the monster of the week type story ends up morphing into a climatic battle between good and evil. The ending felt a bit rushed, but that’s often the case with two volume series. Still, I enjoy reading the occasional shorter series like this just because it is nice to be able to read a complete series in a couple days. This is a fun manga to read in October, as the gothic elements are both amusing and creepy. I’m glad to see emanga continuing to translate the occasional shoujo title, as it is nice to be able to stumble across a more quirky story like A Dark Fable of the Forest.