In a grim fantasy world where it always seems to be night and/or raining, Iris Redhood and Finé Hera are ruthless warriors and dysfunctional girlfriends. As an early flashback in Scarlet explains, Iris is a werewolf (how could a Red Riding Hood-themed character be anything else?) and Finé, who loves her, became a vampire in order to defend her and fight alongside her. Though the emotionally detached Iris scoffs at the idea (“A girl who drinks my blood, who I’m planning to eat, swears to protect me!”), the two have become a team, keeping each other in check when their monstrous impulses threaten to get out of control. They’re now agents of the L.E.A., a government organization that hunts down the elixir that turns people into monsters, to save other hot, sapphic girls from the same dark fate.
Got all that? Fortunately, after a heavy info dump in the opening chapters, there’s not much more to absorb in Scarlet except gory fight scenes and suggestive girl-on-girl situations. The dark, scratchy, blood-spattered cheesecake art is far from typical yuri (lesbian) manga, but the scattershot plot delivers on creating a world populated almost entirely by attractive women and then finding reasons for them to fight each other, fight side by side, suck each other’s blood, rip clothing off, and get into other violent but sexy shenanigans. There’s even a full black-magic bacchanal with a ballroom full of half-dressed women making out before the inevitable monster attack. The big bad of Scarlet Volume One is a tiny loligoth succubus with a taste for virginal maidens.
It all makes for a silly but solidly entertaining erotic goth extravaganza. The cleavage-heavy art and fairy-tale motifs have a Western feel; in the U.S., after all, “grimdark Grimm” is an entire subgenre unto itself. The author’s notes at the end confess that the original goal was to get yuri content into a non-yuri magazine (“The visual metaphor: planting secret lilies in the wilderness”), but then Scarlet got picked up by a yuri magazine, where it stands out as an atypical entry. Both the art and the storytelling are uneven and sometimes rushed, and the sexy fantasy violence isn’t what readers usually expect from girls’ love manga. But that may make Scarlet the perfect pickup for yuri fans looking for something different and gothic fantasy fans interested in getting into yuri.
publisher: Seven Seas
story and art: Chiri Yuino
rating: Older Teen