Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening

Marjorie M. Liu

Book cover

My goodness, Sana Takeda’s art is beautiful. Monstress is worth reading for that alone.

Overall I am enjoying this series so far. The story seems indebted to “Princess Mononoke” in several ways–Maika has a demon-arm that behaves and looks a lot like Ashitaka’s, and the “dead gods” that occasionally manifest as huge spirits walking along the horizon are similar to the Night-Walker incarnation of the Forest Spirit. Master Ren is a Jigo-like character. However, I’m not saying that it’s a rip-off at all, it definitely has its own very complex worldbuilding and story.

My main issue with Monstress is that the plot can be hard for me to follow. There are a lot of different factions with complex interests, and characters often intentionally obscure those interests to Maika, our standpoint protagonist. I’m curious if this is partly due to the “low bandwidth” of the comic medium, and if I could follow it better as a text-only story. At any rate, I’ve decided I’m OK with just going along for the ride even if I don’t always remember everyone’s names or why they are there.

Also, sometimes I feel like Maika only has one facial expression, namely grim determination. But I think this is more than made up for by the diversity of other characters we meet along the way.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars