What are the first few words that come to your mind when you heard the name of Jun Mochizuki? Some of you might tilt your head and go, “who?”, but others might wholeheartedly sob into their palms and say, “I hate Jun Mochizuki so much.” If you’re in the second category of people, then you must be one of Jun Mochizuki’s fans.
Most famously known to be the mangaka behind Pandora Hearts, nicknamed affectionately as the troll by the fandom, Jun Mochizuki is widely associated with manga in fantasy, psychological, and supernatural genre. She has not done a lot of works yet, but her works have left deep impressions on readers, thanks to her beautiful artworks with heavy symbolisms, and most importantly, her smart plot-twists that break her readers every time a new chapter is released.
Most of Jun Mochizuki’s readers probably knew her from Pandora Hearts, but what about her other works? We have the top manga by Jun Mochizuki listed below, so see for yourself if you’ve read her other works! If not? Well, no better time than now to start, right?
- Year Published: 2005
- Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy, Psychological, Romance, Shounen, Supernatural, Tragedy
- Volumes: 1
Serialized in Square Enix’s GFantasy in 2005, Crimson-Shell tells the story of a girl named Claudia, who is the strongest fighter of the Crimson-Shell division of the Red Rose organization. Red Rose is an organization that aims to capture and execute the Black Roses—the result of human experiments of a mad scientist. Being one of the result of such human experiment herself, Claudia was once terrified of her own power, until the gruff swordsman by the name Xeno drew her out of her shell and the room she stayed imprisoned with a promise that he would always protect Claudia. Except one day, Xeno commits treason against the organization, attacking even Claudia before escaping. Claudia, wishing to believe in Xeno, has to uncover what really had happened, and in the process, discovers more than she had thought she would.
Even though it’s a very short story and predated Jun Mochizuki’s infamous series Pandora Hearts, in Crimson-Shell we could clearly see how brilliant Mochizuki’s brand of well-crafted plot is and how amazing the world-building of her works are. Claudia comes across as a very strong, established main character that the plot revolves around, but the supporting characters, despite their rather brief appearances, were interesting and quirky in their own way. There’s William, for example, who appears dangerously cunning behind his smile, but really only wishes to fulfill his role as Claudia’s ‘thorn’ to protect her. Or the quirky trio Robin, Melissa and Lace, who endeared themselves to the readers despite their abrupt introduction. And of course, Crimson-Shell also encased Mochizuki’s brand of heartache for readers, as the manga does not have a happy ending.
Those who’d known Jun Mochizuki from Pandora Hearts first might have to be prepared for Mochizuki’s old artworks in Crimson-Shell, as well as the pace of the manga that’s really way too fast (it ends in a single volume, which is kind of sad because it leaves you wishing to read more of this universe, especially with the ending it offers). It’s great nonetheless, and definitely a must-read for Mochizuki fans, as it gives you insight of Mochizuki’s style of plot-twists and trolling predating Pandora Hearts!
2. Vanitas no Carte
- Year Published: 2015
- Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Historical, Mystery, Sci-fi, Shounen, Supernatural
- Volumes: 2 (Ongoing)
Vanitas no Carte is Jun Mochizuki’s current ongoing work, serialized in Square Enix’s Gangan Joker since 2015. It has had two volumes released so far, and is already licensed by Yen Press for its English publication, which has one volume released already. The title is originally written as Vanitas no Shuki, but a furigana of ‘carte’ is written by the kanji for ‘shuki’ instead. So what’s it about? Vanitas no Carte is really Mochizuki throwing vampires, a steampunk setting in the late 19th century, and magic together, weaving a highly captivating tale set in an alternate historical Paris, following the meeting and adventure of two male leads: the country bumpkin Noè and the so-called vampire doctor who goes by the name Vanitas.
After humans won the war with the vampires, the mythical beings are now forbidden to drink human blood and have to live with their identities concealed, mingling with normal humans. Among vampires, however, there exists an infamous myth of a cursed vampire born under the blue moon, called Vanitas, and his grimoire that could curse vampires into blood-sucking monsters. Noe Archiviste, who is sent by his teacher to make contact with the Book of Vanitas after the grimoire’s existence had been confirmed to be real in Paris, finds himself involved in the incident involving a curse-bearing vampire and a ‘doctor’ who saves said curse-bearer with the Book of Vanitas, claiming to be a normal human who had inherited the name Vanitas from the vampire of the blue moon himself. Simultaneously fascinated and more than annoyed at Vanitas, Noe decides to stick close in order to finish what his teacher had assigned him to do, and the adventure begins.
Be ready for the onslaught of mixed feelings you’ll hold for the characters, especially when it comes to Vanitas himself. While Noe is a wonderfully adorable character, the layers of Vanitas’ characters seem to thicken every other chapter. Of course, the supporting characters are wonderfully lovely as well—there’s Dominique who would make you wish that she’d step on you, but she’s also subtly vulnerable that you’d want to protect her forever, or the adorable Luca who conceals and hides a lot of thing behind his innocent young man appearance.
Despite only having two volumes so far, reading Vanitas no Carte is simply a roller-coaster ride. Not just because the twists and turns that Mochizuki had presented so far—Noe’s past, for example, was incredibly dark—but also because of the unexpected switch between comical relief, action, darkness, and gory details, which oddly did not cause readers any dissonance for the abrupt change in the atmosphere. Mochizuki clearly has gotten better at ‘trolling’ her audience!
1. Pandora Hearts
- Year Published: 2006-2015
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, Shounen, Supernatural
- Volumes: 24
Most of the loyal readers of Jun Mochizuki would have first known her as the brilliant mind behind Pandora Hearts, the series that breaks its readers’ hearts every time a new chapter comes out. The manga began its serialization in Square Enix’s GFantasy in 2006, and only finished in early 2015 with a total of 104 chapters, bounded into 24 volumes, not counting the extra materials released such as artbooks and side-novels. In Spring 2009, the anime adaptation for Pandora Hearts aired, though it only covered up to volume 8 of the manga and proceeded to have its own alternate ending. Its popularity has even been used in Vanitas no Carte’s release promotions in Animate in late 2016.
Pandora Hearts, to put it simply, follows the story of young Oz Vessalius, who is banished to the Abyss, a mysterious eternal prison, for a sin he never knew he had committed. It’s in the Abyss that Oz met a girl named Alice, who then made a contract with him in order to let him escape from the Abyss. Oz manages to escape, only to find that outside, the world has gone on for ten years in his ‘brief’ absence, and his precious ‘servant’ and best friend, Gilbert, is now older than him. In fulfilling his contract with Alice, Oz has to help her find her scattered memories—but he has no idea what fate he has triggered, and what sort of ‘reality’ and ‘truth’ he would have to face in the end.
The brief summary above tells you absolutely nothing about Pandora Hearts. What Jun Mochizuki gives her readers through the tale of this series is nothing anyone had ever expected; the whole series is made of plot-twists, sick-turns, completely mind-boggling reveals, and astonishingly neat story-telling, all wrapped up in emotional turmoils and pain until the very end. It lets you invest emotions in each and every character no matter what their affiliation is, and therefore absolutely wrecks you when their past and fate gets revealed in the end. It’s a frustrating, breathtaking, heartwarming, and painful series all at the same time. Whether it’s Oz’s character development, the story behind the Abyss and the curse of the Baskervilles, the devastating truth of who Oz really is, or simply the unbreakable bond between Oz, Gilbert, and Alice, all of them is presented in a neat storytelling that brings you along into their journey. That’s not even counting the supporting characters. There are still readers who would break into tears at the mere mention of Elliot, but that’s simultaneously tears of pain and tears of pride.
Pandora Hearts might seem to be a simple, childish series at first, but that’s really only the tip of the iceberg. Even when you dive in, Mochizuki keeps you guessing at every odd turn, and by the time she reveals the truth it’s astonishingly mind-boggling and yet, everything makes sense. Presented in gorgeous artwork that only gets better and more detailed with every chapter, heavy in symbolism and beautiful in almost every sense, there’s no doubt that so far Pandora Hearts is Jun Mochizuki’s masterpiece.
A lot of Jun Mochizuki’s readers had fallen in love with her gorgeous artwork and storytelling. While all of her works are dark and has a lot to do with psychological twists, readers would confidently tell you that the story her works paint is a beautiful one that treasures memories and hope, though oftentimes it ends with a rather bittersweet note.
Have you read all the titles mentioned above? Would you like to vent on how much Jun Mochizuki’s works break you? Let us know in the comments!