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The Witch’s House: The Diary of Ellen, Vol. #01 Manga Review

8 min read
No act ever goes unpunished ... whether for good or bad.

No act ever goes unpunished … whether for good or bad.

Creative Staff:
Original Story: Fummy
Illustrations By: Yuna Kagesaki
Translation: Caleb Cook
Lettering: Rochelle Gancio

What They Say:

“I know all too well … the beginning of that diary I never wrote -”

Ellen, who has been plagued by sickness her whole life, heavily relies on her mother’s care and love. When the bond between them decays in a horrific turn of events, Ellen despairs that she’ll never get the love she so desperately craves and thinks she’s done for-that is, until she crosses paths with a mysterious black cat. The cat offers her powers and a house to live in, which seems to change Ellen’s life for the better. But the new witch soon discovers the gruesome secrets within this ever-changing house …

Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):

Ellen can remember a time when she was able to wander outside and play in the sun, but now those days are long gone, now replaced by being bedridden with the only outlet being her window. Her family was told by a seer that the child is cursed due to an ancestor’s misdeeds and thus she would be made to suffer for her lifetime, and as such her seven-year-old body is now wracked with festering wounds and crippling pain. However, even then a mother does not neglect her daughter, always tending to needs and changing bandages even as her father spurns his child and looking on her as a drain to their dwindling funds. This was the one thing she never wanted – to be ignored by the woman who loved her so much, the pain she could endure, but to be cast aside was unthinkable. Even with the hate-filled arguments, she heard between her parents, Ellen still adored watching a small black cat frolicking beneath her glass shield, until it suddenly stopped one day. And while attempting to walk was extremely agonizing she had to find out what happened to her only friend, so with hesitant steps she wobbled outdoors and found the poor feline’s bloody body … her only happy memory now dead.

Forgetting the pain she felt for being outside, Ellen could only think of her former friend and wanting to give him a proper funeral, bringing the mangled form to a nearby park and tentatively using her hands to dig a small hole and return the cat to the earth. It was only then did she realize her mother must be worried for the absence, teetering with every step she made her way back home, only to find a parent sitting at the table worried for the return of a wayward daughter. Even as she tried to explain her reasons for leaving the house, all she could do was to quietly clean off her child’s new wounds and not say a word, leaving Ellen with the impression she had done something grievous wrong. It was the next day when the worries were answered by someone being gone – her mother had vanished in the night leaving everything behind and no one knew where she had gone. When people from her job came to the house to ask as to her whereabouts even her father could not answer the inquiries, only screaming in madness and shutting himself off in his room. But Ellen still expected she would return, attempting to hobble around the house and clean when she was able, but as the days dragged on even she began to lose hope, concern she was left behind because her mother could no longer bare to treat someone who would never get any better. However one day she suddenly appeared, dressed in exquisite garments which she had never seen before and hurriedly packing a bag before hugging her child and apologizing. The only thing Ellen could question was why her mother was feeling sorry for this act and then the reason came to her … she was being abandoned. The only thing she never wanted was coming true – she was being cast aside with a father who did not care and would be left to tend to herself until the very end. But as this loathsome parent attempted to embrace her one last time and voice sincere regrets, something inside the girl snapped and caused her to lose all feeling of love for the woman who had so faithfully taken care of her until now.

In a fit of rage Ellen drew a knife from a nearby table and thrust the blade through the woman’s jaw, instantly following the blow with several more bloody strikes into a now lifeless body. As gore splattered across the room a nearby door opened and her father stepped in, stunned to see the woman who was his wife now reduced to nothing more than a gruesome corpse. He once again ignored his daughter, the child’s dress now a sanguine costume of a young murderesses and wept over what was left of the person who had betrayed them, turning his back to her one last time. Even as Ellen confessed her crime to the one person who was considered family he paid no attention, whimpering over a cold body and hugging it frantically in an attempt to bring life back to what was lost. Once again the girl answered these callous responses with the only emotion left and plunged her weapon into the man who never considered her his child, ending this pitiful stage and beginning another as she fled the house which was smoldering from a knocked over table lamp. Gingerly stumbling her was through the alleyways Ellen soon collapsed and stared at her crimson soaked hands, wondering what she would do now with no one to take care of a sickly child. As if to answer her internal question a familiar figure appeared before and thanked the girl for the delicious feast of human souls; the small black cat she had buried before now spoke and announced himself to be a demon, having devoured the essence of her parents this feline wished to reciprocate the meal with an offer of his own: we wants to grant her with magic and a place to live. He would hate to see his savior die in such an unsavory place and this bargain is beneficial for both parties – so what does she have to lose?

In Summary:

When I first heard of this title I was quite honestly was expecting a charming mahō shōjo series which enlightened readers with a heartwarming narrative, but as we delve into the story of Ellen’s sadness it was quite unexpected to be instead accosted by a tale of suffering and abandonment. While I can appreciate Fummy-sensei’s sincere opening to create an atmosphere which provokes the audience to feel sympathy for this poor girl, at the same time the endearing introduction of the black cat seems innocent until its destiny becomes intertwined with our protagonist in the most twisted of manners. To witness the only joy Ellen has outside her restrictive world suddenly snuffed out seems cruel and it is from this point by which her life takes a horrible turn, but now in foresight it seems she was connected to the feline since the beginning, linking the two lives with an unbreakable Red String of Fate. One would never consider a young girl would have such morbid thoughts at such a young age, but at the same time it would not be unusual since she has always known her life would not be easy due to the sickness and dependence on her mother. Then add the callousness of an uncaring father and one can clearly see the triggers for the story, all the dominoes waiting for a single event which will begin the tumble toward that unavoidable day.

And yet who would have guessed simple black ink could be so effective to project such pervasive emotions within Ellen, all while mangaka Kagesaki allows for her expressive eyes to unfold the tale within a stunning array of feelings: fascination, happiness, tolerance, horror and uncontrollable anger – everything enveloped within a frail body which is our anti-hero. From the beginning you cannot but be overcome with sadness to see her wrapped in bandages, and yet the stubborn smile she wears shows her ingrained bravery to tolerate sickness and not worry her mother. It is this sincerity which makes Ellen so charming, knowing she is in constant pain and yet still cares for others and appreciates her life even as she witnesses the end of her feline friend – you cannot but begin to weep knowing she lost her only outlet from her room and silently cheer once she takes up the burial of her companion. But of course it is from there when the story takes a turn for the worse, the singular panel of Ellen suddenly realizing she has done something wrong and thus reflected by her piercing gaze of terror, you cannot but become memorized by that image. It is from there by which the true foundation of this story begins and the psychological fight for sanity grips us without daring to let go, only loosen once we think it is safe to breathe for relief from this thrill ride of lunacy.

The Witch’s House: The Diary of Ellen may have presented itself as a stunning look into suffering, but as the story progresses it warps into a tale of sacrifice from which we are surprisingly engrossed by the objectification of life and the lack of morality one takes all in an effort to survive. While we can appreciate Ellen’s struggle within the first act, once the book settles into the house you cannot wonder if we ourselves would take the same stance when faced with the decision to live or die. The black cat is a practical guide allowing for a callously logical outlook on existence – some must suffer for others to survive and at the same time it is chilling to understand his viewpoint and agree with some of the statements. If this volume is how this story will progress then we are in for a promising ride of fascination all while questioning our own understanding of death as a means to an end.

Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: A-

Age Rating: Older Teen
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: January 22, 2019
MSRP: $13.00

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