I struggled to find an opening image for this post because the art is so great and ended up choosing the one above because it was the moment I first exclaimed “Yes!” in the comic. I also struggled to write it as I was enraptured by the philosophical concepts within.
Before we begin: The three main characters of the story, before it devolves into a collection of side stories, are: Philippa, the redhaired witch; Lilly the cat familiar; and Colin, the human hero (seen below with black hair and no cat ears). You can read the comic on Tappytoons.com. The official summary: “In these times, if you’re too good or bad at something or simply too beautiful, you’re called a witch. Up against twists of fate and time, an outcast young boy and a mysterious witch will need more than just magic spells and incantations; they’ll need each other.” My summary: The story of immortals engaging with love.
It’s not the first series to show immortal or near-immortal characters falling for mortal ones, it certainly won’t be the last, but thus far it’s been one of the most in-depth looks into the idea with an art style that is both aesthetically pleasing to the eye and well used to create feeling beyond just words.
For example, Philippa and Lily meet Colins when he is a child. He soon decides to leave his small home town to follow Philippa, and Philippa in turn becomes a mother figure to Colins in public. As he grows though, this mother-child relationship seems awkward and unnatural leading up to this pivotal scene:
Colins has grown and Philippa has not. For the first time to Philippa, she realizes how things have changed. She realizes Colins loves her as a woman, not as a mother-figure, and she has grown to love him too. At the same time, the two also realize how fragile this love is when they live on such different timelines for life.
It’s romantic and the image is almost poetic showing the two turned away from the light. We, the audience, know that Collins death will be hard on Philippa, likewise it will be hard for Collins to accept that his love will forever remain untouched by time.
And then, Collins is reborn.
We don’t expect it, and they don’t either, and so we are–at first, happy. After all, while not perfect the two now have more time together and can remain immortal and in-love.
But then Collins begins to die over and over again, creating a new poetic set of imagery as we see the aftermath.
For example, the dramatic feel to the scene as Philippa’s bloody footprints walk away from the slaughtered bodies of people she killed in response to seeing Collins’ hanged corpse:
Or Phillippa’s final moments as she begs Collins to free her from the endless life waiting for him:
What was first beautifully romantic has become tragic. First with the “first love” of Philippa and Collins, then Collins’ first death and then again with every re-meeting and re-death of witch’s counterpart.
The two of them still love each other. Collins, constantly reborn with his memories, is often found by her or vice versa as their fates have become tied together. Philippa, an immortal, loves Collins too–endlessly searching him out so that they can spend the fleeting moments of his mortal life together before the cycle is forcibly started again.
The story follows and beautifully displays the question, would immortality be a blessing or curse?
Of course, in most stories the answer is usually, ultimately, a curse unless you have someone to share the time with because otherwise you become lonesome. Look at Dorian Gray, for example, who becomes out casted for his eternal youth and ever more wicked heart or most any vampire-love story.
It’s a curse if you can’t find a partner in it all.
Yet here we see that even if you have an eternal partner, it can still be a curse.
The witches in this story are near perfect immortals–they don’t tend to die from injury (though it can hurt them and keep them pinned), they have magic that prevents them from being trapped forever, they do not age, nor do they become sick, they also have places of safety that they can return to which are outside the mortal realm as we see during their family reunions. Their “eternal” partners are other witches, though they choose to have temporary human companions for the most part.
Philippa’s people, the witches, find immortality to be a blessing. They act as passive beings enjoying life. They, at times, act cruel or nice and to the humans but it doesn’t matter in the long run to them because time periods are fleeting for them when compared to the mortal lives they put into toil and torment.
It’s only when they come to genuinely care about someone, as Philippa does Collins, that they truly feel suffering.
Collins is an imperfect immortal. He keeps coming back, so his spirit/soul is immortal but his body is not. Had Collins not been reborn, Philippa may have moved on, and, even if she hadn’t, she may not have ended as she does in the story. Other witches have experienced the same and, as the saying goes, “time heals all wounds.”
However, Collins keeps appearing and disappearing without rhyme or reason. The wounds become fresh with each new passing and it drives Philippa insane when she loses him again and he doesn’t return for millenniums. She feels abandoned and hopeless and heartbroken.
Collins’ curse is to continually be reborn. It allows him to change and, because he views himself as mortal, he doesn’t see time the same way that Philippa and her people do. He sees life with new eyes each time. While Philippa is stuck with the same life continuing for thousands of years.
We see their love then, and the passing of time, in different ways. For Philippa, it starts as a blessing. Finally, a partner/lover that can pass through time with her even if they have to be separated for a short while. All she has to do is manage through the fleeting moments of absence in-between each rebirth. Only those absences begin to take a heavy toll on her, until it eventually become a curse. For Collins, rebirth is a blessing as he gets to meet Philippa again and again, to live and retry his hand at new experiences and live life to the fullest. Only for this same blessing to become the very curse his former counterpart felt as he is forced to continue on without Philippa when she chooses death over waiting for him again.
It is a cruel fate for them both and begs us to ask the question of whether or not we would see immortality–if it was gifted to us–as a blessing or a curse if we were in the same position as the witches or Collins.
Would it be a blessing? The chance to live again with your memories of past lives does sound enchanting… but it could also hold you back, drive you mad with the loss of the love you felt before no longer having a presence in the current life. So then, a curse?
What do you think?