When I found out that the Voynich Hotel was complete in 3 volumes, I decided to wait until I had finished the entire series before talking about it on this blog. Unfortunately, when I went to order the last 2 volumes, they were out of stock. I’m too impatient to wait until they come back so you’re getting a first impression! For the record, I’m writing this in December, by the time it gets published maybe I will have found the rest of the series. I’ll let you know if that’s the case.
Before we dive into the manga proper, the title Voinych Hotel is most likely a reference to the Voynich manuscript. That link right there will take you to the Wikipedia page, If you don’t know what the Voynich manuscript is, don’t worry it’s pretty obscure, I strongly suggest you read up on it a bit. I find it absolutely fascinating and tend to fall down a Voynich rabbit hole every few years hoping something new has been discovered. And surprisingly, new tidbits come out all the time!
Why I Picked up The Voynich Hotel
At the time, I actually didn’t make the connection to the manuscript. I’m not sure why, I wasn’t in the mindset I guess. If I had, that would have been more than enough reason for me to give the manga a try.
As it stands, I was drawn in by the character designs and the fact that it was labelled as a Mystery, Horror, Comedy. And you know, that’s actually what it is!
Staffed by murderous maids and situated on a war-ravaged island, the Voynich Hotel is far from your run-of-the-mill vacation destination–but it’s not such a bad place to lie low for ex-yakuza Kazuki Taizou, who’s on the run from his so-called family. As he settles into his weird new life, this darkly comedic manga winds through plots both nefarious and romantic, delving ever deeper into the island’s witchy–and sometimes demonic–strangeness.
My First Impression
This is strange…in a good way…I think…
What I liked
The Voynich Hotel has a sort of maturity in the writing. No wait, that’s not exactly what I’m trying to say. I mean it’s super immature. Ok, let me try this again. The Voynich Hotel features a lot of crass and crude humour as well as a lot of seemingly nonsense situations but the writing and tone assume that the readers are intelligent and well-read enough to make the necessary connections and inferences by themselves. It’s a real strange world and the manga feels no need to take you by the hand and guide you through it.
In some cases, this could be a bad thing, leading to a confusing and frustrating reading experience. And I guess for some readers, it might be the case with The Voynich Hotel as well. After all, confusing and frustrating is a feature of the namesake. But for y part, I found that there was just enough context and the information was dished out clearly enough to keep me situated. And as the story advanced and pieces started to slowly come together, it became an actual joy to figure out just how everything fits into the big picture.
The Voynich Hotel is also sort of weird. If you are very fed-up with random humour, it may get on your nerves. I’m not. I like it a lot. As I said, the art style is one of the things that drew me in. It’s, for lack of a better descriptor, very cartooney. What I mean is that the linework is fairly simple and characters are meant to look unrealistic. The designs themselves are wacky but rendered with a certain simplicity that I found utterly charming.
You should know that there is a lot of violence in The Voynich Hotel. Most of it is implied or off-page but it is there. It’s funny and the tone is light but this is definitely a dark comedy and the humour is black and blue. I wouldn’t recommend this for young children. And that’s another thing I happen to like. I good black comedy isn’t all that easy to come by, especially in manga. At least in my experience. Even something like ZOM 100 (which is delightful), is still fairly innocent when it comes to its humour. Not this. The Voynich Hotel can be a bit vicious and I thought that was delicious.
Bascially everything I said in the What I Liked section.
When push comes to shove, this is a niche manga. I know some of my readers aren’t fond of anything that qualifies as horror or gore and although I think the Voynich Hotel is sort of adjacent to those genres, there are elements in common.
Like I have mentioned a few times, it’s a rather odd story. At times, it can feel like it’s being weird for weird’s sake. Moreover, it introduces tons of cryptic and bizarre elements and just lets them hang there only explaining them minimally several chapters later if at all. Now, this is one of the reasons that I wanted to finish the series. Fact is, if it leaves all these elements hanging without resolution, I would say the Voynich Hotel is incomplete and definitely confusing “unusual” with “interesting”.
However, even in volume 1, you start to see that everything has a purpose in the story. Well, almost everything. I have no idea why the manager is an el diablo type masked luchador.
In one volume, The Voynich Hotel introduced us to the cruel reality of living in a war-torn country and the disconnect of the travel industry. It tackled organized crime and small-time drug trade. There’s of course a vacationing Yakuza, a gay hitman, a horrific serial killer and an anatomically correct robot detective. Oh, and a stray manga artist just to round things off.
On top of it all, the island is home to a rich mythology featuring god like witches and ancient grudges.
Yes all of it somehow works together in a modern and amusing way. If you like odd stories, black humour and maybe a bit of a goth sensibility for designs, then I would recommend The Voynich Hotel.