After reviewing the Oriko manga earlier, it’s time to look at a one volume AU for it. This volume works as a What If prequel where we follow the two main villains from the last title. While the art has greatly improved, this manga decides to follow Yuma’s plot more, which dooms it in the end. Otherwise, all of the other areas of the core manga have improved so this is a good sign for future Madoka titles. Just keep Yuma’s origin out and we’ll have ourselves a winner!
The manga starts with Kirika having no friends and eventually getting Magical Girl powers. She vents out her frustrations by beating Witches until she finally finds a friend that she used to have. She saved the girl and reminds her to always have hope as she physically defeats the friend’s mental demons and heads back home. It’s a nice little origin story for Kirika and she is already much more likable than how she was in the previous volumes. The fact that her boss, Oriko, is a good guy in this series changes things dramatically since Kirika does whatever the other girl says without question. Of course, a true friend should always be willing to call someone else out so Kirika’s definitely got to work on that.
The real plot starts after this. Oriko happens to run into a little kid named Yuma, who is being hit with child abuse. Unfortunately, Yuma doesn’t want to leave the situation as she believes that being a good kid will take it all away. Oriko isn’t cool enough to break in and actually help Yuma, but at least she does give her some words of advice about the whole thing. That’s good….but helping would have been better. Especially when you consider the fact that she got a vision that Yuma was going to die. I didn’t mention it in this review yet, but Oriko’s magical ability is that she can see into the future. Unfortunately, she can’t control this ability so it happens completely at random.
Oriko doesn’t have a lot of time to rethink her moves either since a magical girl hunter in white has shown up. Her name is Sasa and Oriko is naturally on her hit list along with Kirika. The irony of all this….Oriko will have to fight hard in order to defeat this villain since Sasa has the ability to control other Witches. Still, Kirika and Oriko are fairly powerful so they should be able to handle this challenge with no problems!
So, Oriko’s a decent main character. As I mentioned earlier, she should have helped Yuma out more. Besides that, Oriko doesn’t really do anything wrong. She decides that instead of murdering every other magical girl like in the main manga, she’ll just go and fight the final Witch as best she can. We can assume that she died in this battle since even Homura couldn’t win in the TV show, but who knows…maybe she can pull it off. Either way, it’s much better than just trying to destroy someone. Hopefully the irony of Sasa trying to assasinate her and Kirika really hit home. It’s amazing how different a character can be in a what if though. The single difference of meeting Yuma before making her plan is hinted to have been the deciding point. (At least according to the volume) It’s hard to imagine Oriko’s personality changing so drastically, but it’s definitely a good thing since she was a very unsympathetic villain in the first series who was pretty bad.
Kirika’s also much better. She’ll still follow every order and while she talks about friendship, it comes across as hollow due to this. Naturally, Kirika looks a little weaker now that she’s one of the protagonists, but that’s a classic manga/anime trope so it’s to be expected. When she’s not around Oriko, Kirika is typically a lot more independent and heroic and that’s why she looked so good in her origin story. I don’t think the dynamic of Oriko and Kirika would make for great banter so I’d hope that more characters would be introduced in a long running series. Especially since the manga keeps trying to pair these two up and has a lot of teasing between them. Focusing on the action is much better.
Especially since we can finally see the action scenes this time. The art really has improved and it is leagues ahead of the first two volumes in the Oriko series. Those were almost unreadable at times while this one looks more like your standard action manga. It’s still not incredible, but it certainly rises up to an average level and is clear enough where you can easily get what is happening on every page. I was pleasantly surprised to see this.
As for the main villain, Sasa was okay I suppose. She fits the bill as the villain and her army of witches is also fairly impressive. She’s certainly very greedy since she wants all of the Grief seeds for herself, but this strategy definitely seems risky. Why go out of your way to attack other Magical Girls when there are already so many seeds to grab? Well, I guess she needed some kind of motivation. Her design was a little on the generic side though.
Finally, Yuma’s a good character. It’s too bad that she had such a tragic past though. The topic of child abuse is a little too dark for this title and especially since she actually died in one timeline. It shows that this threat was quite serious and it took Yuma too long to get out of there. It was great to see the grand parents show up and take her away. I would have liked to have seen a prison announcement for good measure as well, but this was a great start.
Overall, While this volume’s art was significantly better than the main series and Oriko/Kirika were greatly improved as characters, it was not able to beat the main title. I really missed having the main characters of the TV show around since they really held up the first manga. The fights were solid and since this was a single volume, the pacing was very quick as well. It’s an easy 7 if not for Yuma. If you don’t mind a dark plot like that, then I believe you’ll be able to enjoy this manga a lot more than the other one. If it is an issue, then I recommend checking out the two volume Oriko series instead. The art may be bad, but at least you’ll get to see Homura, Kyoko, and Mami with solid roles. They look really good and have the best scenes in the series. With this volume now complete as well, I look forward to seeing how the next Madoka manga titles fare. I’m still waiting for a definitive one!