Ravina the Witch? is an interesting little story. It’s a fairytale, and like most fairytales, it doesn’t bother explaining itself overmuch. Like the oldest fairytales, Ravina is more for adults than it is for children.
Don’t be fooled by the cute art style; it might be reminiscent of the big-eyed kitsch artwork that became popular in the nineteen-sixties and seventies, (think Margaret Keane but a little more abstract), but this is a total reversal of JRR Tolkein’s “robust and fusty analogy”. I’ll let Neil Gaiman paraphrase:
Fairytales were like the furniture in the nursery – it was not that the furniture had originally been made for children: it had once been for adults and was consigned to the nursery only when the adults grew tired of it and it became unfashionable
Instead, author and artist Junko Mizuno seems to have swooped into the nursery, snatched up a picture book, and slipped in a few extra pages, and carried it back to the other grown ups. From a millionaire who really wants a spanking to a naked old woman covered in pins, and a witch who can only remember her spells when drunk, there are definitely some not-safe-for-kids elements in Ravina.
Honestly, that’s the most jarring part of this work. Seeing Mizuno’s cute and innocent style depicting things like torture and being burned alive is strange- an uncomfortable juxtaposition to say the least. Even just showing the characters nude seems strange in a style that looks so much like it belongs on your great-aunt’s stationary.
For anyone that enjoys a twist on traditional fairy stories, Ravina the Witch? will be a fun read. Definitely check it out, and enjoy Mizuno’s unique style.