I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
It looks like people either love this series or hate it. I'm in the latter group. This is by far the worst manga volume I read during my entire vacation. It simultaneously confused me and left me feeling like I needed to give my eyeballs a good cleansing.
I haven't read the light novels yet. I know I have the first couple volumes somewhere in my personal collection, and my intense dislike of this manga volume makes me wonder if I will ever be able to bring myself to read them. At any rate, I had almost no familiarity with this series, which may or may not have played a part in my confusion while reading this. What I do know for sure is that the manga's hideous artwork and occasionally difficult-to-read text (black on dark gray, for crying out loud) certainly didn't help any.
I cared about none of the characters in this, not even Guin or Valusa, who I think I was supposed to like at least a little. Oh, boohoo, Guin's wife thinks he's freakish because of his leopard head. Oooh, Valusa maybe has a crush on him. Whatever. The characters did things and, even when I was able to follow along with what was going on, I didn't really care.
Now, back to the artwork. I've seen sources praising Yanagisawa's artwork, but I, unfortunately, though it was hideous. Maybe it was supposed to be hideous. After all, this was set in a world with a goodly amount of bloodshed and plague-related death. Maybe the dark subject matter called for repulsive artwork. Maybe people's faces were supposed to look distorted and bizarre. Whether this was all intentional or not doesn't change the fact that I disliked looking at it. The women, by the way, looked at least as repulsively distorted as the men, so the idea that they were probably supposed to be titillating (why else would there have been so much focus on their breasts?) horrified me.
I have no plans to ever read more of this manga. As it is, I wish I'd never read this first volume. I sincerely hope the light novels are better than this.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)