Moonstruck (Vol 1: Magic to Brew) has the potential to be something like Yuri on Ice, in that the story revolves around a really adorable same sex couple trying to navigate a new and promising relationship. It also features one character with confidence to spare, and another who has a habit of getting overwhelmed by self-doubt. While the core relationship reminds me of the beloved skating anime, there are some significant differences. First, Moonstruck’s main couple, Julie and Selena, who are female, live in a world where supernatural beings like werewolves, minotaurs, ghosts, and centaurs live openly alongside regular humans. Second, Julie is a barista in a local coffee shop along with her centaur pal Chet. Julie is also a fan of Pleasant Mountain Sisters Super-Solver Mystery, which appears to be a children’s mystery series featuring a trio of sisters having adventures along the lines of trying to track down the missing puppy they were watching for the local hot guy (upon whom one sister crushes majorly), and Selena is also a fan. Chet, pal and co-worker of Julie, comes off as the stereotypical flaming gay flirt who always has an excess of energy and emotion and quips (“My gender identity today is terrible puns. I gotta be me.”), who might have a crush on Manuel (minotaur), one of his customers (who might actually like him back). This is all set-up, and it’s pretty generally adorable.
Things get more serious when Julie, Selena, and Chet go to see a magic show, and encounter an evil magician who turns Chet into a human. It is also revealed that some of Julie’s self-esteem issues might have something to do with her apparent rejection of her species and accompanying abilities. While I can appreciate the apparent social and psychological commentary here, in terms of story and character, I wish there were more detail about the politics and magic system is this world, because Julie’s issues don’t make a lot of sense without context, and neither does the eventually unmasked villain’s motive because again, there’s not enough info about the world itself. There seems to be some kind of anti-magic sentiment around, but with only a few vague moments to go on, it’s hard to tell, and without those details, some key motivation in this part of the story is missing. I’m also not quite sure why stale marshmallows are a problem; this is a small point, but it’s still a little unusual. Are supernatural monsters traditionally allergic to sweets, like vampires and garlic? It looks more like exaggeration about the staleness, but still, that’s more of a stretch of reality and accepted lore than I can quite follow. Then there’s the reveal about the evil magician’s identity; how exactly does discovering who he is undo the spell that took away Chet’s horse butt (his word, not mine)?
On a more relatable level, Julie and Selena have what’s probably their first real fight towards the end of the volume, and this seems to be a turning point for Julie on a personal level, since the argument which stretches over a couple of small encounters appears to be about Julie’s courage and self-initiative, and what she thinks Selena thinks of her intelligence and capability.
In any event, the art matches the general tone and story, fluffy, pastel, and cuddly. Smallish complaints aside since some of them could be resolved in the second volume in November, I maintain that this is generally a comfy, cute story with a little hint of an edge.