#1 Casual violence & degeneracy
The Voynich Hotel is a cozy business situated on an island in the south pacific. The island is a popular holiday resort, though the hotel itself has seen better days. One day a man called Taizou Kazuki arrives, looking to hide away from the yakuza. Only to soon discover that he is not the only crook at the hotel.
A major appeal of The Voynich Hotel lies in how casually it deals with violence, drugs, sex, and all things criminal. Cast members include a serial killer who sleeps with all of her victims, a manga artist who becomes addicted to drugs because he’s trying to hit on the local dealer, and two sisters who work as competitive assassins. As early as the first few chapters, characters already get killed off with hilariously little fanfare. Even the police are too unfazed by it all to deal with the rampant murders and drug abuse.
What makes this all work is that it’s spontaneous without feeling random. Going into the manga, I was afraid it’d be the product of internet culture. Things just happening out of nowhere because “lol so random” and all that. That is not the case, though. The Voynich Hotel loves sudden twist, but there is a purpose to all of it. It all ties into the story in one way or another. It was actually satisfying to find out why some startling twist from earlier happened or to get a shocking pay-off to several chapters worth of foreshadowing.
The Voynich Hotel is also notably graphic when it comes to sex. It features full nudity and is very upfront about showing that its characters are sexually active. Both casually as well as in the context of serious relationships that form over the course of its story.
#2 Frantic artstyle
Another big selling point is the manga’s unique artstyle. Artist and writer Sayman Dowman is famously inspired by American comics, which lends his manga a punk feel that you don’t see very often. I wanted to say that it feels like a blend of Panty & Stocking, Dead Leaves, and Soul Eater, but that doesn’t quite capture it. The Voynich Hotel really has its own unique look.
The artstyle conveys a frantic feeling, which suits the crazy, crime-filled story well. It’s deranged, but grounded in enough normalcy so that its events don’t feel too cartoon-y.
I was especially fond of the designs of the characters. Some of them look barely human, such as the aforementioned assassin sisters that are always drawn eyeless. Some characters literally aren’t human, such as the various demons that appear on the island. And yet other characters aren’t really human, but sure do look the part…
#3 Sprawling mystery
The island is a place with a storied history. A bit of a gathering place for the paranormal, combined with secret government projects and criminal activity. Figuring out how it all ties together is very engaging and The Voynich Hotel does a good job of constantly handing you new pieces to work with.
Its story is full of mysticism and twists that keep expanding further. For example, it establishes very early on that a myth about 3 witch sisters is central to the island’s culture and history. This idea is introduced very straightforwardly, but new context is added to it piecemeal over the course of the story. You constantly get new angles and information, which keep the plots moving at a steady pace. While also making it gradually clearer how that backstory ties into everything else on the island.
More like this…
Dead Leaves: Raunchy comedy with a punk aesthetic.
Gregory Horror Show: An unsettling hotel with layers of mystery.
Melancholia: Comedy manga by Sayman Dowman.