A man who travels carrying a box on his shoulders, Zipher. When he collapsed exhausted, it was the inhabitant of a certain village, Domika, who rescued him. Against the opposition of other villagers, she lent her hand to him; but this village hides a big secret...!?
Pandemonium: Wizard Village is an often overlooked seinen webcomic later published manga (much like the prolific manga One Punch Man) oddly written in left-to-right format despite being a Japanese work. Webcomics typically vary heavily in quality and a good many, due to the format of webcomics and how uploading them tend to work, have the issue of having stories that are thought up as the comic progresses rather than being planned out beforehand leading to many plotholes that could have otherwise been prevented. Fortunately, Pandemonium avoids this issue and the mangaka, Sho Shibamoto, uploaded whole chapters after many months of work and the end product
shows great amount of planning in the execution of its story.
The story is a tragic mystery and drama about a box-carrying cat by the name of Zipher that travels off a great distance in search of a "wizard village" composed of people known as variants, who are a strange group feared by the rest of the world said to have strange magical powers. He fails to find this village before collapsing out of exhaustion but luckily manages to get rescued and brought to the village by one such variant where he is nursed back to health. The story does incredibly well to present an engaging and interesting world full of wonder and mystery. What lies inside of Zipher's box, why did he want to find this village and what secrets do these variants and the village hold hold?
Many mystery stories have the problem of bringing up questions but never answering them, and for the most part, Pandemonium successfully answers all of the questions and plot-points it brings up. Every little detail and facet of the story is important and time is never wasted on the trivial. Despite this, Pandemonium never feels rushed and doesn't give up subtlety when necessary; it tells exactly what it needs to before moving onto the next event.
The characters of Pandemonium aren't skimped out on either; everyone from Zipher himself to his variant rescuer Domika to the variant village chief Ainu all are made to feel like real people with their own distinct fleshed out personalities that explain the reason for why they act the way they do. Zipher has a troubled past does his best to show kindness and appreciation for others, but he never forgets his truer more selfish interests and can sometimes act almost irrationally out of fear and a lack of acceptance. Domika is sweet and caring and very attached to her village but has a curiosity about the outside world that makes her go out of her way to discover more about it. And I could go on. The characters are very well thought out and almost never act outside of character.
The strong characters help the many events in this story matter all the more and come off as strong and impactful to the reader; because the characters are so well thought out one might be more inclined to care about what happens to them, and in a story full of tragedy this is extremely important. And boy is Pandemonium tragic...To avoid spoilers I will just say that its very much comparable to anime such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica in how the story is delivered. Almost every chapter has some great reveal and/or great tragedy that occurs in it that changes the very way one may view a character or answer some important question about the village itself or why someone did something or why anything for that matter. The story is not for those who don't want to feel sad. Although the story is not tragic simply for the sake of being tragic, and there are a good few themes explored such as the dangers of blind belief and the (perhaps overdone) theme of the escalation of a lie.
As much as like I to praise the story and so badly wanted to give this a 10/10, its not without fault. As I stated, there is a theme present in the story that goes over how lies can escalate and make things worse and, while executed in this story, that has been done before many many many times before it. The story also brings up a mystery revolving around mysterious "straight thunders" that have caused trouble throughout the world that is never fully explained and may leave some readers a tad disappointed. Though this should be about the only plot point that isn't answered and the reader should still wind up satisfied.
One other thing that is worth noting is that Sho Shibamoto's artwork is gorgeous and very unique for a manga; its not in black and white but rather makes use of various shades of brown and black to give it a very dark and rustic look, all while still looking fresh, new, and modern despite that old-style color scheme. There is also much detail in the environments and nearly everything looks just a little wrong; nearly everything is dirty and damaged and the details make this come out really well. The character artwork itself is very expressive, making character emotions very easy to read and some story events come off as all the more dramatic for just how overboard at times the expressions might seem. This might be in part due to all the characters being some form of anthropomorphic animal, as its easier for such characters to have very exaggerated faces without losing the feel of realism presented within the story.
Overall, Pandemonium is a fantastic manga deserving of more love that presents a well thought out dramatic story of tragedy and woe, filled with characters that are both relatable and interesting, and has artwork that shines above the rest. While not imperfect, Pandemonium is *nearly* flawless and deserves the attention of anyone who just so happens to run across it.