So lately I’ve been ordering a lot of manga. I’m in the mood to discover my next big manga love story. I’ve also not been reading as much webcomics. At least not family-friendly ones. As such, I figured I would switch my webtoon recommendations for manga first impressions until I build up a nice stock of webtoons to recommend once again. That way, maybe you can discover your next big manga love. And we start with The Apothecary Diaries.

Why I Picked up The Apothecary Diaries

Honestly, I was in the mood for a female lead character that was not in a romance or an all-women universe. I also like the word apothecary and all it implies. I haven’t read much medical drama manga and this seemed like a fresh genre to explore. When I saw that it was a mystery series as well, I was sold!

Official Summary

Maomao, a young woman trained in the art of herbal medicine, is forced to work as a lowly servant in the inner palace. Though she yearns for life outside its perfumed halls, she isn’t long for a life of drudgery! Using her wits to break a “curse” afflicting the imperial heirs, Maomao attracts the attentions of the handsome eunuch Jinshi and is promoted to attendant food taster. But Jinshi has other plans for the erstwhile apothecary, and soon Maomao is back to brewing potions and…solving mysteries?!

My First Impression

Imagine a mix of Yona of the Dawn and Murder She Wrote. There are two types of people in the world, those that just read that sentence and realized it was all they have ever wanted, and those who will realize it later…

What I liked

I adored the classic imperial palace setting. There is a rich sense of history running through the pages of this manga. And it is set up as a mystery of the week type of narrative that makes for easy reading and compulsive page-turning.

The art style is quite pretty as are some of the character designs. Rawr! And the backgrounds are downright gorgeous. It’s the sort of manga I can just pick up whenever I feel like a bit of escapism and have a great time with.

Any drawbacks?

I only read volume 1 as it was the only one officially available in English when I ordered and it’s a bit early to tell. I would say that my one fear is the characters. They are pleasant, and fun, don’t get me wrong. I quite like them. But they are also pretty surface level for now. The first volume is a lot more plot-driven and really doesn’t need any see character development so that’s fine, but I can see that with this sort of narrative structure, you can in fact go for a long time without character development. It is essentially a procedural and as such character arcs are not a requirement.

So that would be my only fear with regard to The Apothecary Diaries, and then only because of my personal preference for character-driven stories. This said, even if I’m right about it, which is a huge if, I would still like to read more. I had a very good time with the first volume.

Have you read The Apothecary Diaries? Are you interested in it?

4 thoughts

  1. I love both manga volumes. The protagonist is very fun and her cynicism about men is appreciated. I really loved the very detailed rituals that everyone follows; I can see this whole facade eventually failing as the decades pass and the rituals get more and more complex and waste more and more time and the kingdom loses “the Mandate of Heaven”.

  2. I have to admit by just reading your post I’m curious. It sounds very interesting. From the exert that you placed in your post, there is definitely much that is unknown. I love that last picture about “This is poison.” The artwork is done very well. I’m not much one to read things on screen as much. I prefer a story in paper form to allow my eyes a break from screens. It also allows me to study and admire the images more closely. I hope you enjoy it from what you’ve read so far.

    1. It was honestly a pretty good first volume. haven’t gotten the second one yet but I plan on stocking up next time I order manga

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