7 Star TV Shows, Reviews, TV Show Reviews, TV Shows

Magia Record Review

It’s time to look at the follow up to the original Madoka show. Technically this is more of a spinoff than a direct sequel though as it’s based on the mobile game. In true Madoka fashion a lot of the background is shrouded in mystery. We don’t yet know when this show takes place or in what timeline. Thanks to the time travel elements and alternate timelines there are many ways this can go. I have my own theory about it which I’ll elaborate on later on. It’s tough to come after the first show since I currently have that in my top 5 all time anime. (Black Clover and One Punch Man are both gaining ground fast though so we’ll see if it can ultimately stay in the 5th spot) While this show isn’t quite ready for that level, it is very good with a dynamite ending.

The story follows a girl named Iroha. She used to have a sister who was very sick and so she entered into a contract with Kyubey to restore her health. Unfortunately, now her sister no longer seems to exist. Nobody remembers her either although since Iroha has her abilities now that means the wish should have been granted. Is something wrong with her memory and did she potentially wish for something else? Iroha works with other magical girls to get to the bottom of this mystery. In the meantime they also work on shattering many myths and legends around the school. These myths are dangerous and many people die until they are busted. Iroha also has to deal with the fact that witches have begun to appeaer in the town much more frequently than usual which is attracting attention from other magical girls who are willing to murder each other so that they can be the ones to defeat the witches. Is this all part of some sort of elaborate plan?

Magia Record has more of a slice of life feel than the first show. In the first half of the show typically each episode is about solving a different rumor and stopping the villain. There are subplots hanging out during these adventures like various magical girls acting cryptically in the background and of course Iroha’s plot to save her sister. Those seem like they will mainly be saved until season 2 though. The final episode is really what starts to set the stage for everything as we get big fights and hype guest stars. That tells me there is a lot to look forward too. The show mainly runs on how interesting you find the cast to be and they hold their own. There were a pair of characters that I could mix up at times since they both had blue hair and looked rather similar but everyone else is pretty distinct.

Iroha is the main character and she’s a rather timid character. She’s one of the weaker magical girls around and is used to fighting in a city where the witches are a lot weaker. Still, she had to come here to find her sister and fortunately the other magical girls are willing to help her. Iroha is a pretty decent character even if I wish she was a bit more aggressive. It feels like she sort of goes with the flow half the time and is pretty soft spoken like Madoka. Fortunately unlike the old main character we actually do see Iroha fight quite a bit. She rarely wins but she does contribute.

Yachiyo is one of the characters with the biggest role here and serves as the Homura of the group. She’s very serious compared to the rest of the characters and always has to remind them that this isn’t a game. She has very personal reasons for being a Magical Girl (As do the rest of them) and we slowly find out a bit about what has made her so jaded. She’s a pretty solid fighter and one who has unlocked her hybrid form. I’ll speak more to that in a minute. Yachiyo is pretty strategic and also probably the strongest member of the main cast. While she can’t hold a candle to the original Magical Girls, she does better than the rest.

So what are these hybrid forms? Well, it seems like they are a pretty clever way of balancing the power gap between the original main characters and the new ones. Think of it sort of like how in Cardfight Vanguard G they added Grade 4 units so the new main characters could keep up. In a human 1 on 1 fight the original cast would slaughter these guys as Mami showed when she appeared later on. However, the new iteration of magical girls have the power to turn into a witch when they are close to despair. This allows them to gain great powers and stamina. It’s rather interesting that a magical girl could turn into a witch temporarily instead of it being perfect. In a way that makes them superior to the originals in that it’ll be harder for their stones to break. With these monster forms the heroes were still losing but it’s a lot closer. Once the rest of the cast gets these forms it should be interesting to see how they fare. I’m definitely glad they got these power ups.

Tsuruno is a very fun character in Magia Record. She has supreme confidence all the time and her fire abilities mixed in with the fans are quite impressive. She feels like one of the strongest Magical Girls and doesn’t mind letting the others know that from time to time. She even owns a cafe which is pretty impressive considering her age. At least it seems like she owns it. Might be a family shop but seeing as how she is the only worker there whenever the heroes meet at the shop it’s fair to say that it’s hers. I look forward to her appearing more in season 2 and taking names.

Felicia has a hammer which is pretty cool because I don’t think any of the characters used that weapon before. She’s definitely more of a power fighter who likes to just run in and start hitting Witches. Her wish is easily one of the most direct ones of the group as she wants to eradicate them all. It’s a nice change of pace as most only destroy witches because they have to and it isn’t their ultimate goal. I feel like she’s the kind of character who will start out strong but quickly get surpassed by everyone as the series goes on. We’ll see though, perhaps she will stay as top tier. I thought she looked pretty solid here.

Momoko’s role is unfortunately a lot smaller than the other characters which is a shame. She’s one of the more mature members of the group and is always trying to keep everyone’s spirits up. It’s a difficult job considering how much they all have to go through on a daily basis between the witches and everything. One potential red flag is that she’s very upbeat all the time right now which usually means that she is hiding some kind of deep pain. I expect she’ll get a much bigger role in season 2. I’d like to see her in more fights because she was talented and her battle style is fun to watch.

Kaede and Rena get their own plot as their friendship is tested quite a bit as the show goes on. Rena isn’t good at making apologies and Kaede can be a little too quick to say sorry which makes Rena get even more upset. It’s a pretty tough dynamic they’ve got going on. It’s particularly tricky since they are both magical girls since one moment of despair can quickly prove to be the end for them. Then you’ve also got the cult of magical girls running around trying to get everyone to join the darkness. More on that group in a sec but they’ve definitely become pretty influential in the series. They’ve assembled a whole lot of magical girls.

For guest stars we get to see Mami, Kyoko, and Sayaka. Mami gets the biggest role out of the group and proves to be the one with the weakest will as always. It’s a shame because she always seems like a nice person, but one who is easily manipulated. She cracked in the alternate timeline of the first show, didn’t look so good in Rebellion, and then now we have this show. Kyoko only really gets a guest star role here but it does let us know that she’ll be around so she’ll probably do more in season 2. Right away she looked better than Mami here though as she realized that things were not adding up and was quick to assist the real heroes. Finally we have Sayaka who finally steps up at the end of the show. Her regeneration is as good as always but in a battle of pure force she’s nowhere near Mami’s level.

So the big plot going on throughout the show is about the group known as the Magius. They consist of a group of Magical Girls who claim to have found a way to rid the world of Witches once and for all while also ending the curse of Magical Girls being fated to die and turn into them. Naturally this is a pretty tempting offer so a lot of girls join their ranks. It’s still unclear exactly what their true purpose is, but even some of the main characters join their flock. I wouldn’t say that this is such a bad thing if they appeared to be on the level but they don’t even try to hide the fact that they’re shady. One of them openly threatens to murder anyone who disagrees with her and they also created a sketchy program to trap people in an endless abyss until they die. These are the “heroes”?

I’m glad Iroha, Kyoko, and Sayaka didn’t get fooled. The girls who did definitely lose some points there. I do like the idea of a group of evil Magical Girls though. It’s something that this franchise hasn’t really explored before. I admit it was always a little disappointing when a fight was getting ready to break out with them only for it to be called off. This show has quite a few fakeouts like that but it looks like they want to leave all of that for the sequel. Here they mainly summon Witches to fight as their proxy. Still, the group clearly does have a goal and who knows, maybe it is on the level. Perhaps they are just a more extremist version of the Girls who want to use any means necessary to murder the Witches. Not to build up too much hype for season 2 but it does seem to be when everything is really going to meet up and all the plots hit their climax.

The show mainly relies on a new ost but there are some old themes here as well. The ost is still pretty hype and whenever the heroes end up in a labyrinth you know things could get tricky for them. The animation is also quite good and it’s nice to see the characters fighting with more updated animation. In that regard the show certainly did surpass the original title. Everything is quite streamlined and the fight scenes are smooth. This isn’t really a show where fights are the main focus although I expect season 2 will have more of them so I’m always glad to see good animation.

So, where does this show take place? For now I am going to assume you have seen the first show. If you have not then skip the next two paragraphs. After all, it doesn’t make sense to discuss the future seasons if you haven’t seen the original. So here’s how I see it. At the end of the original show Madoka sacrificed herself to end all Witches. This created the Wraiths in their place. This show still has the witches so the first guess would be that they are before the show ended right? Alternately you could say it takes place after Rebellion since Homura undid Madoka’s wish and brought back Witches although they weren’t quite real. I don’t think this would work though because Walpurgisnacht wasn’t revived. As a result, I think this is one of the broken timelines.

We know from the first show that Homura tried to stop Walpurgisnacht hundreds of times and failed in each timeline until Madoka saved the day. So it stands to reason that this is one of the many timelines where she failed. I wouldn’t be surprised if she is the one who has formed this group of rebel Magical Girls to try to end the curse and finish off Walpurgisnacht. It would make sense as Homura took a different strategy in each attempt. While it would mean that ultimately every action in the show would be futile it would be a pretty epic twist. So right now this theory makes the most sense to me and it’ll be fun to see how season 2 goes with this. I really doubt the show would do something to reverse Rebellion’s ending as that would be saved for a proper sequel. I know Homura shows up in the game though so I expect she’ll make her presence known in season 2 and that should answer a lot of questions.

Overall, Magia Record is definitely a lot of fun. It can feel more episodic and it’s not trying to be quite as deep as the main show but there are always elements beneath the surface just waiting to pop up. The ending is also pretty excellent. It was quite possibly my favorite part of the whole show. It feels like the tone suddenly shifted and it helps that the song was really great as well. In a way, the first 11 episodes were all setup for these final moments. It really sets up the sequel season quite well and also raises the stakes. It ties in a bit to where this takes place as I mentioned earlier as well. I’m hoping season 2 jumps us right into the action there. I’m expecting we’ll see more of the old cast as well since they are destined to show up for this confrontation. I highly advise watching the original show before checking this one out so you can understand the framework. After that, definitely jump into this show and if the wait for season 2 is too long you can always download the mobile game and try to reach the end.

Overall 7/10

7 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle Review

It’s time to look at a fighting game that I didn’t really know even existed until I tried it. The Touhou Kobuto series seems fun enough. I enjoyed the Bullet Hell game they came out with as well. The characters all like to have a good time so the plot isn’t really life or death. It’s more like the characters all enjoy a good fight so they use any excuse to beat each other up. A fighting game makes perfect sense for the universe.

So the game starts out with one of the Shrine Goddesses realizing that fewer people are coming to pray for her. She finds out that this is because of a rumor that she is going around attacking people with another vicious god. The heroine decides to go find out how these rumors started and her best bet is to find the other goddess who is supposed to be her partner. Along the way she will have to beat up a bunch of other characters who are doing their best to be as unhelpful as possible.

The plot isn’t fairly large but it’s still fun. You’ll quickly get a handle on the various personalities at play here and each character has an Arcade Mode. Interestingly the game doesn’t let you pick which character you want to play as. You have to beat the story modes in a specific order. You get an achievement every time you beat the game. The arcade mode is only around 6 battles long so you’ll be acing them before you know it. The average battle may last 2-3 minutes although it depends on how aggressively you fight the opponents of course. If you want to beat the game with all of the characters then it should last 2-3 hours I’d say.

That makes for a fairly short game, but you don’t really expect a long campaign in a fighting game. This is more about playing with friends and such. A good fighting game only needs to rely on gameplay and that’s what this one is going for. All of the characters have pretty diverse movesets and you’ll quickly have to find out who your favorite one is. This game is a 3D fighter so you can run around the arena and even fly for a limited time. You have 3 main attacks. These are your standard, power, and scatter shot moves. You can also beat people up in hand to hand combat if you get close and then try to use the standard move. This makes for a lot of different attack options which is good since it definitely opens up the gameplay quite a bit. I certainly tried a lot of different combinations myself although by the end I found that standard is always the best. You can also aim it up by holding either L1 or L2. This does massive damage.

The gameplay is definitely rock solid. It’s not going to win any awards for beating titles like Tenkaichi 3 or Ultimate Ninja Storm but it’s a level of gameplay that can hold its own no matter what the competition is. The graphics also look pretty solid. The illustrations are good and there is a good amount of detail in the character designs and stages. You really can’t go wrong here. The soundtrack is not quite as impressive though. You probably won’t remember any of the themes by the time you complete the game because they’re all basically the same. I would have liked to have seen some rock themes or something here.

In terms of replay value, the game does have some content although I wouldn’t say a ton of it. Once you beat the game with everyone you can try score attack or some other modes. At the end of the day the vs mode is what’ll need to keep you. Technically that would equate to almost limitless replay value so long as there are opponents to fight. The gameplay will have to be the main incentive because there aren’t really any big unlockables here. You can choose to buy more characters on the EShop though which is always a tempting offer for big fans.

I hope they eventually make the giant head at the end of the game playable. That’s the kind of joke character that would bring some extra life into the game. You gotta admit that the character has a ton of potential and she is what made the story so much fun. Whenever she starts spinning around and shooting the giant energy blast you know things were going to get real. I don’t think the game should charge for too many characters though. Titles like FighterZ and Super Smash can get away with it because we all want the new characters, but Touhou Kobuto? I don’t think the series is quite big enough where everyone would be paying top dollar to grab em all.

Overall, Touhou Kobuto is a fun game. I do think it would have benefited from a little more story content or a larger character roster though. The roster is surprisingly small for a current gen game. If the title had gone for either option it would have been able to add an extra star to its score. Nonetheless it is still a very fun game. It’s the kind of title you could whip out at parties for a little fun and to shock everyone who likely don’t even know that it exists. The game is best in short doses though as it just doesn’t have the same lasting appeal as other fighting games.

Overall 7/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Tokyo Mew Mew Review

It’s time for an old school Shojo. This one is fairly similar to Sailor Moon in many respects. It’s a classic story of 5 magical girls who fight evil in the name of justice while also trying to get through their human drama. The art’s a big improvement over the former, but aside from that it actually ends up feeling a bit weaker overall. The manga has its share of issues. It’s a fun read, but it’s hard to call it a good one.

The story starts with a girl named Ichigo. She’s been leading a normal life up til now. Things are actually going fairly well for her as well, she is finally on the verge of being happy with Aoyama. Then she is transformed into a magical girl and the two responsible for this (Shirogane and Keiichiro) let her know what is going on. She is one of the chosen warriors who must defend the Earth from aliens. There are 4 other magical girls, Mint, Lettuce, Pudding, and Zacro. Ichigo must find them and enlighten them as to the responsibility they now have to protect the planet. They have to find the Mew Acquas and stop the demons from destroying the planet. Little does Ichigo know that this will be the easy part. Staying together with Aoyama while keeping all of these secrets will be much more complicated.

It’s definitely a very classic kind of story. There aren’t a lot of twists and turns that you haven’t seen before although I do applaud the series’ attempt to mislead you by throwing in red herrings. Trust me, there are a whole bunch of them in here involving who the Blue Knight is or who a mysterious cat appears to be. Your first instinct in both cases will likely be correct but if the series causes you to question yourself then I suppose you could count that as a win in its book.

Lets get right into why this series didn’t work so well. It’s unfortunately the romance and the fact that every character is in on it. Ichigo is one of those characters who is so charming that everyone wants her. Aoyama, Shirogane, Blue Knight, and Quiche all want to be with her. Keiichiro may also belong in that category. It’s definitely not the best way to get the romance going. Now, it could work if Ichigo just immediately denies all of them except for 1 and straightens things out. At the very least she could be like Kirito and pretend to be oblivious the whole time. Instead she always gets flustered around all of them which is a problem. She has to constantly talk to herself in order to strengthen the resolve needed on not cheating on Aoyama. Keep in mind that these two are together for most of the series so going with anyone else would definitely be cheating.

Quiche is a villain so his attempts to get Ichigo are naturally some of the trickiest. He pulls a Xellos with how quickly he’ll appear and steal a kiss. Ichigo is never able to bounce back from these moments and they seem to keep happening to her. When she is turned into a cat then another cat comes to try and steal her away several times. Ichigo just never shows any real strength or willpower to keep these characters at bay which can be pretty annoying. The scenes certainly do bring the series down without a doubt. So the romance was definitely one of the weakest ones I’ve seen in a while. It just couldn’t hold up.

At least the artwork is quite good though. It’s very clear and the characters don’t look too similar so you won’t have to worry about mixing them up. We even get some nicely drawn fight scenes as the Blue Knight took on Quiche. Most of the magical girl fights are less impressive since they tend to be one hit KO moves, but it just shows how strong their food powers are. As long as Ichigo is around you never feel as though the villains even have the slimmest of chances. They are simply outmatched and they know it.

Beyond the romance, I suppose Ichigo isn’t a bad character but even then I have to say that she is relatively weak next to most other Shojo leads. She simply doesn’t have enough confidence of charisma. Everyone walks all over her. Then when she turns into her super form she quickly turns a 180 and starts talking about peace and food. Sometimes the change is so abrupt that it’s almost alarming. I think the manga maybe dials up the cheerfulness of the characters a little too much in these moments. Especially given the circumstances at times.

As for Aoyama, he definitely wasn’t all that good either. My problem with him is that he always seems upset at Ichigo. You could say that this is because he has a hard time showing his emotions. After all in his side of the story towards the end we find out that he was never upset. Maybe it’s just how the author likes drawing him. Aoyama’s eyes appear to be glazed over and lifeless quite often. He wants to play along with Ichigo’s scheme, but just admitting that he knew would have saved a lot of grief. If he didn’t want to go that route, then just acting more cheerful would have helped. Instead he tends to be very quiet and sulky all the time. Ichigo does ditch him a lot, but if Aoyama has made peace with this then he should be fine.

The Blue Knight is definitely pretty cool though. He’s very powerful and determined to save the day. He always listens to Ichigo’s wishes even if they are quite dangerous at times like sparing one of the villains. It would have been nice to have seen more of him although I suppose his screen time was pretty reasonable. His name is also good since it’s hard to guess who is he in universe compared to Ichigo whose cat name is Mew Ichigo.

As for Shirogane, I have to give him a thumbs down as well. You can probably tell that I don’t consider the cast of characters to be a big strength for the series. He’s the classic mean guy who is constantly taunting Ichigo but it’s only because he cares. He teases her quite a bit and uses his car form to secretly still be her friend. It’s pretty deceptive and no matter how heroic they try to make him appear it is hard to sympathize with the guy. Then you have his partner Keiichiro who really doesn’t do much in the series. Honestly his role could have been erased entirely and I don’t think a whole lot would have changed. That’s how inconsequential he was in the series.

Next up is Mint who is probably the best of the cat members even if she basically stopped appearing by the end. It may be for the best since she started falling off pretty hard once Zacro showed up. Mint is also one of the slightly meaner characters as she has a rich upbringing and isn’t afraid to mention it a lot. It’s good to have a member on the team with a lot of spunk like this though and she was fun enough. At the very least she isn’t constantly distracted by romance like Ichigo is which is always good.

Then there is Lettuce who isn’t really my favorite member of the group. She’s very timid and always has a tough time doing anything without the others. In the grand scheme of things that is true for all 4 of them since they can’t seem to do anything without Ichigo. It just seems even more drastic for Lettuce. I’m thinking that having this member is another staple of the team so it was bound to happen sooner or later, but Lettuce never got much character besides that. I think the reason is that ultimately none of the members got a huge role after they joined since Ichigo began to steal all of the screen time. That’s why it is tough not being the main character.

Pudding is the worst member of the group. She can’t take anything seriously which is always a bad character trait. Comic relief characters can work, but surely you have to get serious when your life is threatened. Pudding takes this to the extreme as she could be held at knife point and talk about cake. She thanks the villains and acts super oblivious to everything. It just gets real annoying and the heroes should have kicked her off the squad for being too young anyway. Then we have Zacro who was pretty solid and if the series had went on much longer she would have probably passed Mint. She seems to be a lot more capable than the rest of the members aside from Ichigo. She already has experience using her abilities and is also a bit older than the other characters. This helps with her agility and physical skills. Zacro never really warms up to the others nearly as much as you’d expect and stays relatively mysterious even by the end.

Then we have the villains. There are a few of them, but lets just talk about the big 3. Deep Blue is the big mastermind and he’s certainly the best villain. He’s a very no nonsense kind of character and is efficient about achieving his goals. He’s crazy powerful and if not for some very specific circumstances I definitely think he would have easily won the fight here. It would have been nice if he could have appeared a little more though. Seeing him take names a few times each volume or so would have really ramped up the intensity. Then we have Quiche who is the villain with the most screen time. Unfortunately he is probably the worst villain. As I mentioned earlier he is always trying for Ichigo to no avail. It just doesn’t make for a particularly captivating motive. He’s also very skilled so if he had taken his task seriously then it would have been all over for the main characters. There just isn’t much that the heroes could really do against him and his speed.

Then we have Tart who is the counterpart to Pudding so you can probably imagine that he isn’t very good. He gets charmed way too easily so you have to wonder just how loyal to the cause he was in the first place. You can’t allow yourself to doubt your mission so easily. That’s just a big ticket to disaster 100% of the way and he knows it. A villain who was pretty solid is the stoic second in command, but his name escapes me at the moment. He’s always talking about percentages and how he’ll have to increase the dose if he wants to win. He never does and basically goes out without a fight but I still liked his personality.

Going back to the art, the fact that it is so good does help the series immensely. If its art was at the same level as Sailor Moon then the series would have likely dipped into the negative score range. As it stands, at least the manga volumes are real page turners. You’ll be blasting through the series at top speed once you start. Even if it’s a title that doesn’t ultimately hold up when you really think about it, at least it’s a fun ride in the meanwhile. I do think it’ll probably make for a fun 4Kids dubbed anime though. They can take the concept and really run with it.

Overall, Tokyo Mew Mew is a fun story with good ideas, but the romance really does bog it down here. It would have helped the series so much if Ichigo was just more independent and able to defend herself from her many suitors. As it stands, she always has to be rescued or simply succumbs to their whims until they end up running off. Playing the series straight as an action comedy would have easily made the series a lot more engaging. The drama is fine and all, but going the other route would have won the day. If you like an old school romance type manga like this one then by all means I recommend checking it out. Otherwise, I think you’ll have a better time checking out a different manga like Angelic Layer or something. That title has a bunch of action without worrying about romance.

Overall 5/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Puella Magi Oriko Magica Extra Story Review

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!

Overall 3/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Phantom Thief Jeanne Review

Phantom Thief Jeanne was a fairly intriguing manga title. The plot is nothing spectacular on the surface as it’s fairly generic and there isn’t anything really notable about the manga aside from the final arc. I can’t say that it has aged well and Sailor Moon does defeat it, but it’s always fun to compare a new magical girl series to established ones like Madoka Magica and Sailor Moon. It’s a fairly short series so it had to cut to the chase right away!

Maron was an ordinary girl until she was given a task by God. She was to hunt down the various demons that had taken control of paintings around the world and sometimes they would possess humans as well. In order to accomplish this task, Maron was given the ability to transform into a reincarnated Jeanne D’Arc. With her newfound magical powers and an angel to help guide the way, Maron was now ready for anything. Still, can she balance this duty along with keeping up with her social life? After all, there is a lot of romance in this series and she has to stay prepared!

As you may expect, the romance is one of the things that really hurts this series. I can’t even begin to describe just how poorly it is handled the whole time. For starters, the main guy is completely unlikable and one of those mean characters who you can’t sympathize with at all. His name is Chiaki and he is (seemingly) an agent of the Devil. He is here to stop Maron from accomplishing her task at any cost. That being said, he wants to have it both ways. Chiaki isn’t willing to turn good, but he also doesn’t want to stop liking Maron, which makes for a romance plot that just doesn’t work. Maron should just defeat him since he’s in her way. Although, her powers aren’t quite That impressive.

As Jeanne, Maron seems to gain some slight super strength. She has her magical chess pieces that she can throw to help vanquish the evil spirits and a lot of other magical abilities that wouldn’t really help much against an opponent, but still look neat at the very least. Luckily, most of the enemies aren’t that physical so these abilities will work out just fine. As a character, Maron is all right, but I just couldn’t find her to be that likable. Mainly due to the drama with Chiaki, but even beyond that, there’s just not much to her character. She’s a nice person as she’s the protagonist, but she never really developed her personality and she could lose sight of the mission from time to time.

Naturally, she’s an improvement over Chiaki, but there’s not much more to say about the guy that hasn’t been said already. He’s never willing to make the tough calls so I definitely wasn’t going to find him very likable! Maron’s friend, Miyako is all right. Her gimmick is that she really wants to capture Jeanne as she doesn’t know that Jeanne’s true identity is that of Maron. She’s essentially used for comic relief here although she has a half serious romance subplot with someone else, she basically denies it for the whole series, which is certainly good.

As for the Angels, Finn is Maron’s ally. For a while, she was a very good character, but then she decided to make a big move, which involves thinking about which side she wants to really be on and that really hurt her character. She had her reasons and there were a lot of twists, but it doesn’t change the fact that she nearly destroyed Maron and did make things very hard for the heroes. I like to think that she is now a true hero who will stand by the others, but it’s always hard to forget such treachery and it really did make her go from being a likable one to just dropping out of the ranks.

Her opposite was Access. He’s the dark angel who helps Chiaki and he wasn’t likable at all either. Like his master, he spends a lot of the time just flirting and he doesn’t take things very seriously. Perhaps it is because the series takes itself a little too seriously at times, but he really doesn’t help its case. That basically wraps it up for the main characters of the series as the main cast was actually quite small.

The main aspect of the manga that actually warrants some discussion is the end of it as the author decides to make a pretty bold move. A lot of manga titles like to have their all powerful beings who are gods that mess with the humans, but this was different. See, in a plot twist, we find out that Jeanne is actually a reincarnated Eve and the God is actually the real deal. He is God, not just a fake god who was made up for the series. Naturally, that’s a pretty tricky thing to include in the series. It’s great that a series is actually acknowledging the Bible and God, but then the portrayal must be on point and that didn’t happen.

There is a big twist about the Devil. He’s not a fallen angel, but he actually is God. See, God became lonely so he basically split into two entities and that’s how the Devil was created. Riiiiiight…….that was a pretty unnecessary twist. The series tries to make the Devil very sympathetic by the end as he just wanted a friend, but cmon…that’s just too much. God is also portrayed to basically be powerless in this series as Maron is the only person keeping him from being annihilated by the Devil. Why is Evil always so much stronger than Good in these things? So, the ending was certainly very bold, but it just didn’t work out. It’s very surreal to see God portrayed as a character in a manga series so that definitely earned the series a lot of originality points, but that’s about all I can say for it. It would have been easy to fix this. Simply not have God be on the verge of death and forget about the Devil plot twist. That would have quickly changed matters in an instant.

Ah well, at least that gave me something to think about as I was reading the series. Beyond that, it is just very generic and unfortunately it is not that good. I can deal with the characters being a little bland, but the romance plots were handled rather terribly and the action scenes were basically nonexistent. The series was only 7 volumes, but it did manage to contain a lot of events thanks to how big they were so I guess I can give it props for that. It’s still monster of the week for most of the series though. The actual plot didn’t help matters much either though.

The art is decent, but I’d say slightly below average. It’s one of those Shojo styles where it can be very hard to follow what is actually happening because of how chaotic the pages can become. It’s a decent artistic effect if you’re into that sort of thing, but I actually prefer the ultra simple art styles like Bleach or Hunter X Hunter. Those really let you follow the action with ease which is why you can sometimes read a Bleach chapter in about 2-5 minutes.
Overall, Phantom Thief Jeanne is certainly one of the weaker Shojo series that I’ve read. It’s leagues above titles like Vampire Knight and Black Bird, but at the same time, I feel like this one should have been much better. In many ways, it is very similar to Zodiac P.I., but that one was simply better in every area. It was shorter, but had better characters and certainly had higher quality artwork. If you’re looking for a good magical girl title, then you should probably go with the classic Sailor Moon. If you want a fun Shojo title to read, then Zodiac P.I. is the way to go. Either way, Phantom Thief Jeanne just isn’t good enough to recommend. Of course, taking out the romance plot or simply improving it could have really helped, but alas, it was not to be.

Overall 3/10