Best Shots Review: JUNKO MIZUNO's RAVINA THE WITCH? 'Engaging & Surprising Tongue-In-Cheek'

"Ravina the Witch? Vol. 1" preview
Credit: Junko Mizuno (Titan Comics)
Credit: Junko Mizuno (Titan Comics)

Ravina the Witch?, Volume 1
Written and Illustrated by Junko Mizuno
Published by Titan Comics
Review by C.K. Stewart
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Ravina the Witch? tells the story of a little girl raised by crows in a town dump who grows up to be a beautiful young witch, maybe. Junko Mizuno’s most recent graphic novel, originally published in French by Soleil, has been translated and republished in a beautiful new hardcover edition out this week from Titan Comics. Ravina the Witch? is a surreal and playful style that reads like a classic fairy tale but looks like something a little closer to Walter Murch’s Return to Oz than Disney’s Cinderella.

As with Return to Oz, Ravina the Witch? isn’t a particularly child-friendly tale, this time thanks to moments of nudity and brief fetish content rather than being flat-out scary. However, Ravina is never off-puttingly sexualized or raunchy, offering a cheeky twist on fairy tales rather than a full-blown sexy reinterpretation. Mizuno’s shojo-inspired style is on full display in Ravina’s big eyes and beautiful flowing hair, and the ruffling and delicate fashions throughout the book. Little touches capture the sheltered innocence of Ravina’s childhood amongst the garbage as crows keep her safe and decorate her hair with beautiful bright insects, helping her accumulate the cast-off popular toys of children in the popular world.

Credit: Junko Mizuno (Titan Comics)
Credit: Junko Mizuno (Titan Comics)

Though her style is sometimes characterized as childish or cute, Mizuno blends the romantic elements of shojo and Gothic styles into something uniquely adult. She makes clear distinctions between the baby Ravina who helps rescue an elderly witch - the source of the powers she tries to tap into with middling success for the rest of the novel - and the adult Ravina who’s unexpectedly sent back out into society in the narrower shape of her face and longer limbs. There are little touches in the design of the characters, and in small background details like an elderly high society man’s strangely snake-themed decor that give the book’s flowing line art and soft, almost vintage color palette an off-putting vibe that keeps Ravina the Witch? from feeling like a totally light-hearted tale.

Credit: Junko Mizuno (Titan Comics)

Ravina’s tale is engaging and surprisingly tongue-in-cheek all the same - she’s a witch who only seems able to tap into her powers after drinking, and Mizuno writes the tale of her life with a sense of irreverence that makes this graphic novel a delight to read. Mizuno introduces fleeting erotic moments that are playful but not titillating. Ravina pays a wealthy man back for providing her room and board after she’s evicted from the dump by spanking first him, and later his other wealthy friends. When she finds herself bored of indulging his fetish she escapes into the woods and makes her first real friend, a lone farmer in the woods who enjoys the same frilly dresses as Ravina but has scared off his old friends and neighbors by wearing too much perfume. He’s an unusual character, but much like the wealthy men from the town Ravina leaves behind, he’s never presented as a joke, just a man who makes choices Ravina may not understand, but doesn’t judge; why would a girl raised by crows know to pass judgment on unusual characters, if they’re not hurting anyone?

For newcomers to Mizuno’s work, Ravina the Witch? is a perfect introduction to her visual style and narrative skill. This new Titan Comics translation is a beautiful book from its stunning cover to the final haunting pages of Ravina’s adventures in the “real world” to her return to the crows who raised her. This is a sweet and quirky tale that will be right at home on the bookshelf of fans of gothic romance and fairy tales with a playful grown-up twist.

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