A-presto is a three-volume manga series by author Shiina Takasato and artist Naruse Tomine. It tells about two childhood friends who grow up in what appears to be pseudo-Italy in the 19th century and get involved in various supernatural and political incidents.
The story jumps around in time to tell about the characters' childhood and later life and connect these two sides of them. Rin, who has become a guard serving the noble class, keeps visiting his friend Karaku in his garden so that they can talk about their childhood. Early on, it's revealed that Karaku is in fact dead but that he's not aware of it. Rin's motive is to find clues about Karaku's murder by getting him to talk about the past and all the things they've experienced.
This is an interesting premise that could lead to an intriguing murder mystery with bits and pieces being slowly revealed through the characters' childhood memories. Unfortunately, the storytelling isn't very competent and it rarely feels like the individual chapters have much to do with the overall plot. They aren't enjoyable on their own either. I find it hard to imagine how it's possible to create something so utterly boring when you're working with tragic ghost stories and political intrigue. None of the supernatural sections in the series is in any way frightening or suspenseful, and the endings to the chapters are generally disappointing. The only chapter I found myself really liking was the one featuring the dead count and the white cat.
The characters aren't very memorable either. Apart from Rin and Karaku, there are only a few regular characters, but there's nothing interesting about them. The main leads themselves work in the roles they've been given, but just like the story, they're boring and bland. In a story about life-long friends where one of them has died, I expected to feel something for the characters, but apart from the very last pages, the series was a let-down in this regard. I just didn't get much life or emotion out of the numerous scenes in which they interacted, even though all the essential pieces were there. That "something" was just missing.
The art in the series is competent but not particularly memorable. It's pretty to look at and mostly focuses on the characters. The backgrounds feel a little empty at times, but there are occasional houses or interior designs that keep it interesting.
All in all, the series is an average read, but it fails at creating any suspense and making you emotionally attached to the main characters. At no point did I feel the need to keep reading to find out what would happen next, and that's an unforgivable sin for a mystery story. read more