The Coamix house, founded by Nobuhiko Horie, the former editorial director of Shônen Jump, along with veterans such as Tsukasa Hôjo and Tetsuo Hara, carries both licenses and projects. Thus, when Hara and Hôjo recover the rights to Hokuto no Ken and City Hunter, this is the perfect opportunity to enrich their licenses with spin-offs, with a strict look. Besides, it seems that the Japanese publisher has found a real concept, born with Valkyrie Apocalypse: Under the eye of the divine, historical figures are shown to us confronting the gods, in spectacular and implausible duels. Thus, in October 2020, the magazine Comic Zenon welcomes the female part of this mechanism: Majo Taisen – 32-ri no Isai no Majo wa Koroshiau (which can be translated as “The war of the witches – When 32 formidable witches kill each other”).
This time, the project is led by Homura Kawamoto, author of the Gambling School saga. He provides the writing while the drawing is provided by Makoto Shiozuka, a mangaka whose work we have already been able to appreciate with Shimba Ra Da at Tonkam editions, then Meminisse at Doki Doki editions. Two seasoned artists, therefore, who lead a series that seems to be doing well since 5 volumes have already been published in Japan. On our side, where Ki-oon offers Valkyrie Apocalypse in its catalog, it is Pika who seizes its alter ego, offering it under the English title Wicthes’ War.
It is from the point of view of Joan of Arc that the story of this war between witches begins. After being educated in the strictest Catholicism, Jeanne never stopped obeying the authority figures around her. So, when she hears a voice from God ordering her to chase the English invader from the country, the young woman complies, participating in the wars against the enemy, before being burned alive for witchcraft. Instead of dying, Jeanne is welcomed in a place out of time, among thirty-one other women who share her destiny: All are “witches” with exceptional lives, and it is under the orders of the Queen of Agrat Bat Mahlat demons that they will have to battle, in duels to the death that will only save one of them. But the reward is at the height of the event, since the survivor will see her greatest desire granted by the demon…
The concept of Wicthes’ War, much like that of Valkyrie Apocalypse, is quite brilliant in its simplicity. It is also like its title which does not plant great pretension, if not that of entertaining through bloody and fierce battles, taking as heroines great female figures of history whose lived is largely romanticized. The series by Homura Kawamoto and Makoto Shiozuka does not claim to be a historical encyclopedia, but a release where butchery and a parade of historical women are mixed, portrayed by beautiful silhouettes, sometimes even sexy. Series B, therefore, but which can be quite satisfactory.
And that’s the case. From the moment the reader accepts this contract with the authors, this first volume becomes a pleasant read, exhilarating by its violence and by its use of the codes of the story of combat with a supernatural tendency. Kawamoto’s good idea in this title is to juggle pure bladed weapon battles, then branch off on fantastic elements with the implementation of the magic concept. Simple in fact, this consists of granting a power or a weapon in the image of each of the fighters, enough to flesh out the confrontations with techniques based on their personalities. For the first face to face, the warrior Tomoe Gozen is opposed to the sadistic Elizabeth Bathory, two figures who are not necessarily the most telling for a French readership, but whose frenzied and bloody fight we appreciate. And if Witches’ War is certainly not a didactic work, perhaps it will give the desire to be interested each time in the witches who confront each other.
Besides, a small semblance of intrigue comes to seize us over the pages in the person of Joan of Arc. A character neither sympathetic nor unsympathetic, the young lady embodies a voluntary void that leaves room for potential development throughout the battle. The series certainly takes a bias by depicting her as a heroine, which implies a virtual impossibility of defeat until the end, but the maneuver is clever to establish a script interest alongside the enjoyable aspect of the tournament.
And if the whole remains effective, it is because Makoto Shiozuka’s style is quite ideal for such a manga. His line is fine, controlled and dense, and his narration is bombastic. Whether it is to symbolize historical figures in the guise of pretty girls or to scratch violent and explosive fights, the artist takes up the challenge admirably. So, in all its ingredients, Witches’ War promises to be a pleasant long-term read, provided that the title manages to renew itself punctually. A series B action with pretty promises, provided you accept the starting point, of course.
On the publishing side, Pika delivers a beautiful copy, whether through the production, the well-calibrated lettering by Raphaëlle Marx, the relevant translation by Xabière Daumarie, and the beautiful cover model resembling war chronicles by Tom “spAde” Bertrand.