Manga of the Month: Frau Faust

Frau Faust by Kore Yamazaki

hisui_icon_4040_round It is always interesting to compare various titles by the same author. Sometimes it will be immediately obvious that two stories are by the same author to the point where you can’t imagine anyone else writing them. Other times you will be blown away when you discover that two stories have the same author. Rumiko Takahashi is a great example of this. It hardly takes a manga expert to figure of that Ranma ½ and InuYasha are by the same woman but Mermaid Saga feels very different from her normal work. But no matter where on the spectrum any pair of titles is there are usually a few subtle thumbprints that are always present in an artist’s that work can appear no matter who radically different the base story is. It is just some artists have a distinct repertoire that is unmistakable in almost anything they do whereas others are more chameleon like. Throw a rock on the internet and you will find something about the common practices of any prolific artist.

I mention this because some of the most interesting analysis can come from looking a two titles from the same artist that are fairly distinct while still having enough in common that you can also get a sense of their core style while also seeing where they tweak their formula to create a different story. For a good analysis you have to pick two titles that don’t just feel like carbon copies with different names at the top. I bring this up because I feel Frau Faust and The Ancient Magus’ Bride are two manga that are perfect for this sort of examination. While you would never mistake a chapter of Frau Faust as one from The Ancient Magus’ Bride at the same time they are both unmistakably by Kore Yamazaki. Lets look what makes these two series different from each other while still having many of the same points of appeal.

While many people know the legend of the infernal scholar Doctor Faust they are unaware that they are mistaken about two very important points of the story. The first is that the tale of Faust is very real and the other is that Doctor Faust was actually a woman. When the story begins Frau Faust is looking for missing pieces of her bonded demon Mephistopheles that have been taken by the Church. While trying to recover one of the pieces she reluctantly gains a student named Marion who wishes to accompany her on her quest. Marion quickly discovers a hidden world that has been hiding in the shadows the whole time centered around demons like Mephistopheles. What secrets is the world hiding and will they consume young Marion’s body and soul?

If you want to find similarities between the two titles they are fairly easy to find. They are both stories in which there is the regular world we all know and is hidden just below the magical world and kept JUST out of sight of most of the mundanes. The magical world in both series is extremely beautiful and exciting but equally dangerous. Both stories revel in exploring the strength and ugliness of humanity and love to do both in the same story if possible. If anything Frau Faust’s magical world might be even darker but its only because the story in Faust focuses on characters who deliberately delve into the heart of darkness. The main character in both series is a woman with her feet firmly in both the magical and mundane world who is not really home in either. There is also a romance between a woman and a otherworldly inhuman male. Kore Yamazaki is a woman who clearly has some preferences.

Despite those very important similarities there are also very crucial differences. The plot structure is very different in both stories. The Ancient Magus’ Bride has plot arcs but the overall story is the far looser story of Chise’s growth into someone who believes she has the right to live. The story Frau Faust is far more focused on the quest to reassemble Mephistopheles. That is a story with definitive path. There can be some twists and turns but overall it is a straight road. Also Chise and Faust are like night and day when it comes to who they are. Chise’s path is plagued by her lack of self-worth while Faust is infamous for an overabundance of pride which leads her to the point of hubris. Also The Ancient Magus’ Bride is firmly set in the present whereas Frau Faust is shaped by being a period piece. That is important because Chise’s gender rarely is a plot point in her story while Faust’s gender is a major thematic element.

All of this means that in a vacuum with no real inputs about the reader if you enjoy one story there is a good chance you will like the other. That said there are enough elements that differ between the stories that it is hardly a one to one match. I love both manga but I hope this manga spotlight gives some fans of the better know Ancient Magus’ Bride some insight to Kore Yamazaki’s other manga and if it is for them.

– Alain


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