Majo no Shinzou

majo-no-shinzou-魔女の心臓

Do you like stories that have a clearly defined outcome presented right from the get-go where it’s the journey to the destination that matters so much instead? Majo no Shinzou is one of those stories. So today, let’s find out what this not-all-too-well-known fairy tale-esque manga has in store for us and if there’s anything that sticks.

Once upon a time, there was a witch who sold her heart to the devil in exchange for a life lasting an eternity. And so, even nowadays, she keeps wandering around in her heartless, undying state, for all eternity in the boundary between life and death, seeking for a new heart to possess. Such is the basic gist of the tale of ‘The Witch With No Heart Betwixt’, a commonly known fairy tale. The young traveller Mika is no stranger to this story either, albeit for different reasons. On the outside a young girl, the heartless Mika has been on a journey for five hundred years already – indeed, she is the witch from aforementioned story – but a few things are different: For one, she is no evil apparition that is after any heart. Secondly, the one she is truly searching for is her younger sister. Lastly, she has got a companion: And so, alongside her magical dragon-turned-bishounen-turned-talking-lantern Lumiel, she wanders the lands through light and dark to find what she is looking for. Mika and Lumiel are an uneven duo tied together by fate and love even though the places they hail from vary greatly and so will their destinations – Lumiel desires an eternity of time for Mika yet Mika seeks her own final rest. Together, with these conflicting ambitions, the two of them embark on one last journey with no return. Still, with their destination set in stone, maybe they can find some meaning within their travels.

majo-no-shinzou-color-page

Majo no Shinzou or The Witch’s Heart is a manga series written and illustrated by matoba, serialized from 2012 to 2016, spanning across eight volumes or 46 chapters in total. It was published in Gangan Comics Online, Square’s online outlet for numerous titles such as WataMote and Nozaki-kun. Also, the author of Pandora Hearts recommends it as “This is yet another rendition of Onee-san Meets Shota! As I am intoxicated by its delicate and fleeting outlook on the world, I attentively watch over the journey of her, the loli onee-san and him, who he has a (self-proclaimed) fondness of mature women, as I am wearing a broad grin on my face.” Take that as you may. If it’s stuff like this I get out of them, maybe I should pay more attention to the obi provided in the future if they come with quotes like this. A shame there aren’t any for physical volumes. They should totally scan them.

majo-no-shinzou-all-volumes-魔女の心臓-全巻

While Majo no Shinzou never got an anime itself, its author is no stranger to anime adaptations. 2018 saw the adaptation of Beelzebub-jou no Okinimesu mama., an anime about the daily non-adventures of female Beelzebub who would much rather be a fluffball than reign over the underworld. The parallels between the two works are rather superficial however – there is the soft artstyle and its pastel colors, the occasional use of SD characters, the overall feeling of its cast and the author’s strife for a world where every character, no matter the gender, is a beautiful sight to behold. Other than that, Majo no Shinzou and it have nothing in common – I only lasted five episodes through its bad to middling performance anyway. Thank goodness Majo no Shinzou is a lot better than that however. 

majo-no-shinzou-alpaca

Simply put, Majo no Shinzou is a collection of episodic fairy tale-esque roadtrip stories set in a fantasy world as it puts its focus on its two protagonists Mika and Lumiel and the people they meet through their travels. Majo no Shinzou is also a bit of a tear jerker obviously as it’s centered around its protagonist seeking death. In its late-stage messages of trying to find some meaning within the fleeting time you have and to pass something on that proves that you were undeniably there, it even reminds me a bit of Soul Sacrifice Delta.

I’m generally fond of roadtrip stories and this perfectly fits the bill as Mika and Lumiel travel to all sorts of fantastic lands and towns and landscapes on their adventure’s journey. These locales oftentimes have some very peculiar backstories or at the very least the people inside them. As each story usually pursues a certain point or morale, you’d be hardpressed not to make the connection with Kino no Tabi but none of the hackneyed philosophical wishwash is here and maybe that’s for the better.

majo-no-shinzou-doll-魔女の心臓-人形

Much like fairy tales, the individual stories are simplistic in nature. You can often tell who’s good and who’s bad from the very get-go. Which isn’t to say that Majo no Shinzou doesn’t throw the occasional curveball but by large, I found even these to be foreseeable. I am probably getting a bit redundant here but I think the fairy tale comparison really gets best across what kind of fiction Majo no Shinzou’s individual stories entail. From the setup to the main part to the overall message. We’re not dealing with a lot of originality here but what works works.

This, however, brings me to the first of Majo no Shinzou’s several bigger flaws: Episodic stories dedicated to certain themes and messages can work very well as proven by Shigofumi. I just don’t think that Majo no Shinzou does terribly well in giving tried and tested statements the kind of execution that could pull it off. Yes, even a banal message can have great power behind it when laid out properly. After all, most works out there don’t and can’t reinvent the wheel as most concepts in fiction have already been covered. So it often matters whether or not you can convey your message by saying something interesting and Majo no Shinzou often just isn’t quite there.

majo-no-shinzou-book-vendor-魔女の心臓・本屋

While Majo no Shinzou is the story of Mika and Lumiel, it also is the story of the people they encounter due to its episodic storytelling. Which isn’t a bad concept per se but oftentimes, I feel like it would be better if there was some sort of connection to our protagonists. It happens occasionally on a thematic level (which I very much appreciate) but I can’t help but think that Mika and Lumiel often just so walk into certain pre-existing issues just to fix them or observe whatever the newly introduced characters do and say before acting on their own as if the entire world was constructed around them just happening to come by.

Yet still, on average, these stories are entertaining as well as varied enough and not many if any are alike. The people they come across are as diverse as their stories are. In fact, Majo no Shinzou often goes the extra mile as there is a whole set of fantastical creatures out there for you: Dragons, beastmen, fairies, mermaids and boy, am I starting to believe the author is into human x creature love stories. The entire thing is omni-pandering like you wouldn’t believe it. Pretty boys and pretty girls and pretty creatures everywhere. Maybe matoba just celebrates beauty as it comes along in all shapes, forms and sizes? I suspect Majo no Shinzou is written by a romanticist in general. And perhaps a fetishist. Who knows.

majo-no-shinzou-rote-rose-魔女の心臓-ローテ・ローゼ

A lot of Majo no Shinzou is drenched in pathos that certainly feels relatively shallow however. Most of the stories fall rather short due to their length or rather lack thereof actually. On average, your 30+ pages long chapter seeks to have our characters travel to a new location, introduce a new set of characters alongside their main conflict and make a great point about something.

Needless to say, you can only do so much with this limited amount of pages and I really would have preferred for some stories to be longer but on the upside, the many stories within this are rather varied by nature. But then you get stuff like a story on how this random traveller sitting next to Mika and Lumiel has a tragic past insofar as that he freed a girl he was in love with from being a slave but she returned to her owner because, see, setting people free is not always a good thing as they then lack safety, also, here’s where you insert the bird cage allegory. Story’s over. That’s it. Like, what even was that?

majo-no-shinzou-rainbow-魔女の心臓-虹

So Majo no Shinzou goes for pathos and I appreciate that a lot – but it also tries to stay rather basic than reach for the stars and I think that’s counterintuitive with pathos. Regardless, there are some really nice stories that hit just about the sweet spot like when Mika meets an old acquaintance after countless of decades and wonders if the first time meeting someone is a coincidence and the second time a miracle, then what does that make the third one…? Regardless of her train of thought that due to her being on a seemingly ever-lasting journey, she is a person who says “farewell” and not “see you again”, she reasons that remembering and being remembered isn’t such a bad thing after all.

And it’s precisely these kinds of moments from Majo no Shinzou’s side of things where the subject matter shines through the strongest and it gives its hardest to actually say something about it that left a lingering impression with me.

majo-no-shinzou-sasshe-サッシェ

Some of the stories presented can end on a darker note but on average, Majo no Shinzou is an optimistic and forward-thinking work albeit with a huge emphasis on delivering tragic or bittersweet conclusions. Generally speaking, there is also a lot of shoujo energy to be found within Majo no Shinzou. Characters are beautiful and things sparkle and bloom in terms of presentation. There is a certain sense of aesthetic to it that I find to be somewhat hard to categorize. Then again, do we need a categorization for everything? Well, the aforementioned obi are a wonderful thing with their boasting statements and one of them claimed it’s a “gothic fantasy” so… try to imagine whatever that means. But I guess it matches the at times exceedingly corny writing which generally ranges from one-note & dull to surprisingly impressive with quite a fine aftertaste.

As such, the quality of these stories can differ quite a lot. Occasionally, it’s crude how a concept executed with a surprising amount of grace can be followed by a three-parter that’s as banal as it gets.

majo-no-shinzou-mika-and-lumiel-魔女の心臓-ミカ-と-ルミエル

Meanwhile, the main plot of Mika’s search for her sister sprinkles in occasionally but remains mostly left untouched until the last volume apart from either Lumiels or Mika’s backstory and tales that mirror the eventual parting of the two of them and how Lumiel doesn’t want for Mika to leave his side. Other than that, however, there really isn’t much of a proper plot progression to be found in Majo no Shinzou. And yet, it does play a bit with its concepts for the better.

For instance, there’s the story of The Witch With No Heart Betwixt which is based on Mika but obviously not entirely factually true and has become distorted over the centuries. Occasionally, the tale becomes a central element in a chapter’s thematic approach. Should Mika attribute importance to this cruel story of hers or rather not take it to heart at all? For the most time, the audience is kept in the dark about the specifics of the story but it becomes a lot clearer as Mika’s own past unravels and that is something that Majo no Shinzou overall did very well. Having a character portrayed as a legend while still revealing only bits and pieces certainly got me engaged in wanting to know her backstory until all of the curtain finally was lifted.

majo-no-shinzou-last-chapter-魔女の心臓-ミカ-最終-の-話

One could argue the main plot only kicks in during the second half of its last volume. Which sounds like a recipe for disaster in terms of pacing and finding the time for a proper conclusion but it works out surprisingly well and there is quite the grand twist that I certainly didn’t see coming but appreciated very much. Overall, Majo no Shinzou no doubt is a story that ends on a strong note. Generally speaking, it picks up in terms of writing quality a bit towards the end when its actual themes become apparent and Majo no Shinzou approaches such lofty things as the concepts of time, loss, seeking a purpose in life regardless or perhaps because of the incoming end and, both from Mika’s and later on also Lumiel’s perspective, outliving your loved ones. It certainly does approach some interesting topics. Do you think that there are things that transcend time beyond death? Lumiel and Mika have certainly found their very own answer.

majo-no-shinzou-lumiel-mika-ritsuka-リツカ-ミカ-と-ルミエル

As such, Majo no Shinzou is a nice little fairy tale, nothing more and nothing less. But maybe that’s not so bad – at the end of the day, despite its faults, it stuck with me even after reading it and I’m positive that, occasionally, I’ll remember it; and I’m sure the work itself could have wished for nothing more.

Final Verdict: Decent.

2 thoughts on “Majo no Shinzou

  1. Hi! May I know where did the last picture come from? The one where they are jumping in the air ? Just finished reading it online and I’m obsessed with the pic but can’t find it anywhere except here – like is it from a physical manga volume or diff? Would love to know thanks! 💖

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