Velveteen & Mandala

Alt title: Becchin to Mandara

Vol: 1; Ch: 14
2007 - 2009
3.133 out of 5 from 120 votes
Rank #34,598
Velveteen & Mandala

War looms over everyday life in the capital. Two girls who seek respite in the bucolic outskirts of Suginami Ward learn that a riverside where spirits reside is creeping with rotting anomalies. As the adults prove incapable, youth must take up arms.

Source: Vertical

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Man, I know it has the Abstract tag so I knew it'd get weird, but this is just... so out there. I don't dislike it, but it constantly had me wondering what I was even reading. So, if you're into trippy material just for the sake of trippy material, this is the right place for you I suppose. This is quite definitively not "bad", just weird. Story - A pair of girls are our main focus - they both demonstrate increasingly odd and erratic behavior as they carry out their lives in a dry riverbed. Apparently this dry riverbed is some sort of bridge to the afterlife, and they do work alongside a caretaker to clean up the undead that arrive in the riverbed. Each chapter has a fairly distinct feel and vibe to it, such as one making use of mock JRPG-game-elements between panels. The varied themeing presumably represents the erratic mentality of the POV character, which I can appreciate. Not much "plot" exists to speak of, at least until the last couple of chapters, as it seems the author really wanted to just explore the strange mindscape they'd created in this bizzare setting. 5/10; It's hard to rate this category highly considering not much actually happens, but it's also hard to rate it lowly because it's clear that traditional "plot" isn't really the goal either. Art - The art of this work is as erratic and off-kilter as the characters portrayed, with dramatic - almost scribbled - line art and often exaggerated proportions. It's at once offputting and amateurish, yet clearly intentional and visually striking. There's a lot of effort put into the backgrounds and set pieces that displays a clear mastery of environmental artistry. 8/10; I genuinely appreciate the talent that goes into creating this kind of intentional aesthetic. Characters - I'm frankly at a loss of how to even evaluate this category. There is consistency to the characters, yet a pressing insanity to it all that makes them completely unrelatable. In a way, it makes these characters feel utterly foreign/alien, and it does so in a fascinating way that makes it stand out even among other works with intentionally alien characters. 5/10; Much like the story, the character writing feels distinctly antithetical to what most writing tries to achieve, yet not necessarily in a displeasing or upsetting way. Overall - This is a real trip to read, and I imagine would be incredibly offputting to many readers because of how hard it is to follow (or, indeed, even make sense of). I like to think I understand some of what it was trying to express, but I don't know how much of what I don't understand is a cultural barrier versus just simply intentionally dischordant writing. While I felt little emotional connection to this, and even considered stopping around chapter 7, I do genuinely appreciate works of this kind that attempt to do something against the grain and provide a unique experience that explores something most readers may never have felt before. 6/10; In a way it's simultaneously a 1/10 and a 10/10, since what it sets out to do is nearly the exact opposite of what I generally consider "good writing", but it flawlessly achieves exactly what it wanted to do.

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