14 November 07
The first thing you notice about the book is the size. It’s roughly half the length of your standard TokyoPop manga, however don’t let that put you off. It contains 25 short stories of approximately 4 pages, with somewhats a linear overall narrative. The tales are told in a very cute way with lots of witty banter, in-jokes and play on words.
This book has four main characters that all live (though not all of them always welcome) with Laya in a cottage in the forest. First of course is Laya, and just like the title suggests she is the witch of a small village called Red Pooh (the statue in the town square is of a bear … hmm). She normally makes spells for the villagers but finds herself often buying pre-made spells for her own personal use. She doesn’t obsess about keeping the house clean but does try to get the others to help with the cleaning chores. A big fan of procrastination, a character that I could relate to on many levels.
Ever see a chain-smoking, alcohol swilling, smack talking cat before? Enter Puss (not the most original of names I’ll admit), who came to live with Laya some time ago but she hadn’t had the heart to throw out. You’ll often see him stealing Laya‘s booze, spells, or even possessions for his own greed or occaisionally to sell.
Part crow, part boy (at one stage part girl O_o) is Snowy. A character that turned up on the doorstep of the cottage on a ‘snowy’ night. After staying with Laya for a few days in human form, he revealed his true crow-like state and managed to stay on living with her. Everything’s pretty new to him and finds pleasures in simple tasks such as going to buy one raddish, though don’t ask him to make change.
Finally is Nicky. Nicky was a struggle for me at first to define her gender (until story 21), because of her tough don’t-give-a-monkeys attitude. She does turn male in story 21 and bed’s two beauties to spite Laya, and she seems to enjoy getting Top Dog status.
As I said earlier the art style is mostly cute and adorable, which isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. It is my cup of brew however and I love this book! Most reviews online will warn you off it because of it’s over excentricity and ‘comic you draw to show your mates’ approach, but this is one of the most original pieces I’ve seen in quite some time. Although it’s part of a series, Laya doesn’t give a huge cliff hanger off the end of the book to make you feel obligated to get the next, and I love when chapters and on a closure note.
Also included is a short story called Hi-Ho. Told and drawn in a very similar style to Laya (though this has only one tale to it). It’s a story about two people trying to find a concert but neither one knows where it is. After bumping into each other (quite heavily), it’s established that Rami is a fan of a band, and Yumel just so happens to be the lead singer. Including a brief cameo from the ‘ever helpful’ Puss, the short is followed by a two page diary-esque note from Yoyo.
I personally loved this book, however I can appreciate that there would be people who’d find it bland and dull to them. My recommendation is not to buy it online but find it in a bookstore and have a cheeky glance through it, read a few stories, mock the cat that cancer’ll soon catch up to, and decide then.