The Fall 2019 Manga Guide
Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms
What's It About?In another time, another place, a grand, powerful wizard gave animals sentience, intellect and the ability to walk on two legs. These new beings began to hunger for knowledge, and to do research and catalogue ideas, they formed an academy called Wizdom's, named for their esteemed and benevolent creator. Now, Wizdom's is host for many, young and old, teachers and students. And in these hallowed halls, full of powerful magics, love exists in turn.
A Unicorn, ostracized from his society for his sexuality, finds surprising connection in a curmudgeonly old owl. A deer takes care of his snake roommate during winter. A bunny has a crush on the cat who tutors him. A group of prankster bats discover their connection goes beyond liking mischief and mayhem. All this and more in the whimsical school of Wizdom's.
Is It Worth Reading?
The temptation to compare this title with BEASTARS is great, but apart from the fact that both feature anthropomorphic animals as the characters, there really isn't much about them that's similar. While the former title is a complex metaphor for sexuality and preconceived notions based on how we classify people, The Wize Wize Beasts of Wizarding Wizdoms is a much quieter story, focused on individual pairs of people who just so happen to be animals. (Or demi-humans, in the language of the book.) While they may share an appeal for fans of furry stories, they're very different in tone and intent, and I have to say that I found this book much more enjoyable.
In part that's because Nagabe, the creator who also writes The Girl from the Other Side, has a real talent for understated, slightly mystical storytelling. The basis for the world, that a great wizard created humans, animals, and demi-humans (a combination of the first two) and that the demi-humans now attend a wizarding academy in his honor, allows for the existence of animals both real and mythical, and Nagabe really takes into account the way that each species functions in creating their stories and relationship dynamics. In some cases that may be a little squicky for some readers, such as the reaction of the rabbit when he's Frenching a cat and notices the rough texture of his tongue, but most of the time it simply works within the tropes of romance fiction as sort of an added feature. Thus the wolf's possessiveness of the goat he has a crush on is just an offshoot of the well-established “more aggressive love interest ‘marks’ the other one” trope; in this case it simply happens that the people in question are goat and wolf demi-humans.
Nagabe's art style is veer more on the animal side for the characters, with no human-like secondary sexual characteristics (i.e. breasts on the females), so bird demi-humans only have wings, no hands, and the deer and goats have hooves as both hands and feet. Characters whose fur or feathers are mostly black (the crow and the wolf, specifically) are a little harder to distinguish because of Nagabe's heavy inking, but overall the aesthetic really works for the story. All of the romances are BL, but nothing more explicit than heavy kissing is shown, and the romances are more used to explore other themes than just for their own sakes, as is best seen in the final chapter about a human boy and a moon bear. While the animal aspect may turn some readers off, if you enjoy The Girl from the Other Side this is worth at least checking out.
The Wize Beasts of Wizarding Wizdoms is interesting as a part of the BL genre, because a lot of the stories aren't even romance. Or at least, depict kinds of romantic experiences not often glimpsed. Its first story is its most conventional; a young cat makes a Love Potion in order to work up the steel to confess his affections to one of his peers, it doesn't work, and after some chastising, they get together. While I'm not a huge fan of the Love Potion angle (this is somewhat helped by the one who drank the Love Potion calling him out for doing it, and the Love Potion not working in the first place), it's a cute story about how awkward it can be to confess your affections and the start of a new romance.
The other stories are not so cut and dry. One is about an unrequited, somewhat toxic crush a crow has on an oafish, pushy peacock. The peacock is obsessed with finding a girlfriend (or 'mate, as he grossly puts it), and even says to the crow that he could never, ever date men. And yet, the crow goes out of his way to sabotage any possible relationship the peacock could form, all to stay in control of him. It's a messed-up parable about how our unreciprocated feelings can push us to jealous possessiveness. Some stories, like one involving a deer taking care of his snake roommate during winter-time, don't have any kind get-together or climax, even though it's confirmed both of them have feelings for each other. This structural and thematic diversity does make for a compelling anthology, one which I don't think has a single outright bad story. And the willingness to depict all kinds of love makes it resonant across all different kind of experience, even if some stories are uneventful or lacking in a real arc.
The Wize Beast of Wizarding Wizdoms is slight, but in a good way. It's an unconventional (both in terms of its furry subjects and it story content) BL about various kind of love, be they traditional, immature, unrequited, or just based in common, everyday connection. It would be a slice of life if it weren't for the magic school and talking bears. And it is certainly charming, even if it all offers are small windows into people's routines. But art is meant to reflect every facet of life, of existence, and it's sometimes nice to get a pleasant peak into the small doldrums and quiet occurrences that comprise our daily living and see the love latent in it all.
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