Scarlet is a dark-fantasy, yuri manga by Chiri Yuino that I had originally assumed was about vampires, based on the cover art. Turns out, it’s actually about werewolves. Looking at the cover again, the red riding hood get-up is kind of a dead giveaway.
Since she was a child, the most important person in the world to Finé was Iris. Even when people in town spread rumors about Iris and how the people close to her were prone to disappearing, Finé’s feelings didn’t waver; Iris meant everything to her. The townspeople had reason for concern, however, and one day Finé discovered that Iris was actually a wolf-girl and a literal man-eater. In spite of this, Finé remained devoted to Iris and when the authorities came for her beloved, Finé tried to protect Iris by consuming Elixir, an illegal drug that transforms humans into savage werewolves. Finé went berserk as a result of the transformation and killed all of Iris’ assailants and then wound up attacking her as well. Thankfully, Iris’ true wolf blood seems to neutralize some of the drug’s effects and Finé regained her senses, only to be devastated by the realization of what she’d done and what she’d become. Finé begged Iris to kill and eat her, but Iris refused, stating that she’d only been interested in consuming Finé’s untainted human flesh. So the two strike a deal; Iris will help Finé search for a cure and, in exchange, Finé will allow herself to be devoured once she’s human again. To this end, Finé joins the National Drug Force (L.E.A.) and, with her monstrous fighting abilities and Iris’ inhumanly keen senses, the two of them begin their quest to put a stop to the spread of Elixir and find a way to restore Finé’s humanity.
Scarlet is certainly a different kettle of fish compared the standard yuri romance manga. It’s action focused, violent and more than a little twisted. Not a series for the faint of heart. Normally, I would be excited to see more variety in the kinds of stories that are available to English-speaking yuri fans, however Scarlet is not a series that I’m able to muster up much enthusiasm for.
To start with, I can’t really get behind Finé and Iris as a couple. The fact that the, possibly, immortal Iris has known Finé since Finé was a young child makes it seem like Finé’s feelings for Iris are the result of grooming. Iris’ comments about her plans to devour Finé don’t help matters, as there are some very obvious sexual undertones in that statement, especially when you take into account how Finé’s drinking of Iris’ blood is portrayed throughout the manga. We aren’t really given any other reason for why Finé loves Iris as much as she does either, just the statement that she’s always felt that way. On top of that, they are both unhealthily obsessive in regards to each other, so their dynamic comes off as being super creepy, even when you try to ignore the details of how they met.
The plot of Scarlet is also kind of a mess that relies much too heavily on conveniences. For example, we’re told that it usually takes 5 hunters to take down one rampaging werewolf, but that Finé is able to fight several at a time by herself. Yet no one in the L.E.A. questions why Finé is such a freakishly-strong fighter!
I also feel like the story tipped its hand too early in regards to the nature of Elixir. The manga seems to be trying to create some mystery surrounding the drug, but we’re told right at the beginning that Elixir is what turned Finé into a deadly werewolf. Despite this, the story seems to be determined to make the exact effects of the drug as confusing as possible. When Finé and Iris apprehend some men who are trying to sell Elixir to an Innkeeper, the young woman begs them to let her to keep the drug, as her younger sister needs it in order to be healed of a deadly disease. Our heroines refuse and start to explain that the drug is dangerous but, before they can, Finé experiences flashbacks of her mother’s death and starts having an attack of her werewolf symptoms. While Iris helps her to recover from the attack, the Innkeeper and her sister use this opportunity to escape with the drug. At this point in the story, I was waiting for the sister to turn into a monster and go on a rampage, but that’s not what happens. The drug does actually fully cure her of her illness… for like a minute and then she dies! Apparently Elixir has healing properties and is also deadly to children.
This is where another major instance of a character conveniently ignoring something strange so that the plot can be moved along occurs. The distraught innkeeper runs into a childhood friend of hers who hasn’t aged at all since the last time they met and still resembles a young girl. The innkeeper doesn’t question why this would be and lets her creepy friend take her back to her mansion. Unsurprisingly, this is a terrible decision, as her friend is actually a succubus who’s in the midst of hosting a drug fueled sex-party with a bunch of hot ladies! Well, that last part wouldn’t have been so bad, except all of the scantily clad ladies are taking Elixir! Apparently, amongst its many other side-effects, Elixir also has euphoric effects on adults. Finé and Iris show up to put a stop to the party and that’s when all of the sexy ladies transform into werewolves and start tearing apart the support team that came to assist Finé. This is where Iris explains to the shocked innkeeper what the readers already knew, that Elixir only kills some of the people who take it and that, most of the time, the drug-users are transformed into werewolves. This seems like it would have been a much more natural place for that information, and Finé’s past, to be revealed, especially if the intent was to build tension around the uncertain nature and effects of Elixir.
With its clumsy story-telling and uncomfortable romance, I didn’t wind up enjoying Scarlet very much and I don’t think I’ll be picking up the next volume. If you’ve been craving a yuri story that’s dark and action packed, then it’s possible that you’ll get more enjoyment out of this manga than I did, but I generally wouldn’t recommend it.
Final Score: 6 out of 10
For more information on this manga, check out Seven Seas website: https://sevenseasentertainment.com/books/scarlet-vol-1/
What did you think of this manga? Did anyone else think this was about vampires? Let me know in the comments.