The Spring 2021 Manga Guide
The Tale of the Outcasts
What's It About?Wisteria is an orphan girl living in a corner of the British Empire at the end of the 19th century. Her life is desolate and bleak–until she encounters Malbus, a powerful but equally lonely immortal being with a furry appearance, hounded by hunters. Together, Wisteria and Malbus roam the Empire–populated by humans and human-like beasts–in search of a place where they can live together in peace.
Is It Worth Reading?
If ever a manga needed a cross-over with Moriarty the Patriot, this would be it. The Tale of the Outcasts opens with Wisteria Langley, a young orphan in late 19th century London, being forced by a corrupt priest to beg on the streets, all with the aim of showing off her lovely face to potential buyers from brothels or worse. At night he keeps her in the church's attic, tethered to a ball and chain. It's clear that she's not the first child he's done this to. Instead of the Lord of Crime, however, Wisteria is saved by a demon, Marbas. Wisteria has the Sight, which in this case means that she can see demons, and ever since Marbas found her in the attic, he's been spending nights with her, telling her bedtime stories and other such wholesome things. When the priest announces that he's got a buyer for the girl, Marbas steps in, first trying to buy her outright, but actually succeeding when Wisteria offers him her eyesight in exchange for his continued presence in her life. Thus the tale of a demon dad and his daughter begins.
It's quite sweet, really, because Marbas, bored after centuries – if not millennia – of just sort of existing really does appear to care for Wisteria and her well-being, even if he has a hard time admitting it. While he can't restore her sight after taking it, he goes out of his way to feed her, help her learn to navigate the world without her vision, and casually save her from any little accidents she might stumble into. He even spends the night reading in her bedroom, not in a creepy way, but because he knows she finds his presence comforting after so much time spent alone. The implication is that he enjoys spending time with Wisteria as well, even if it also comes with the horrible realization that he's going to have to be the one to do most of the cleaning. (The indignity!)
There's of course some tension in that Wisteria's missing brother, who she assumed had suffered the same fate she did when he was taken to London years earlier, is now a demon hunter, part of England's super-secret demon-fighting militia. Snow has been searching for Wisteria, and Marbas definitely has some feelings (that he's not yet admitting) about the fact that Snow couldn't find and save her before Marbas did. While he says that his contract is stronger than the siblings' blood ties, what he seems to mean is that Snow doesn't deserve her, because after all, if it wasn't for Marbas, Wisteria would be a whole lot worse off than she is without her sight. It's in the subtext, what Marbas specifically isn't saying, that this story really shines, and that's also what sets it apart from similar titles like The Girl from the Other Side and The Ancient Magus Bride, although I think that if you like either of those, this will also be appealing, albeit in a less peaceful way. Plus Marbas in his demon from looks like Beast from Disney's Beauty and the Beast, so that's a whole other level of appeal.
Also, Sherlock Holmes makes a cameo as Snow's contact in London. I really wasn't joking about the cross-over.
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