Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Alright i know what your thinking – “dude, its been months since the Madoka anime finished and your only NOW reviewing it?”

Well firstly it isn’t the anime I’ll be reviewing today – But instead the manga that were released at the same time.

Madoka magica

At first glance the manga series is a relative carbon copy of the series, and as the story progresses the story does copy the anime relatively closely [ a fact helped by the artist and writer having access to the storyboards and scripts of the anime]
and yet rather than take the lazy path and simply create a carbon copy of the series, this manga has instead used the scripts and storyboards as a guide, a fact that as a result created a series that can easily stand on its own – in fact you could read this entire series without ever seeing the anime and still enjoy it. Another credit is the fact that [ no doubt in part to fan reactions to the anime as artistic licence] certain scenes from the anime series have been expanded and even [in this case of the infamous events from episode 3….you know which one] have been shown with more detail than censors would have allowed on the series.

A definitley darker version of episode 3's... imfamous scene.

Orico magica

The first of the two spin off titles for the Puella Madoka Franchise this 2 volume series serves as more of a side story [in a manner – that’s all I can say without giving outright spoilers] than as either a stand alone or as an inclusion to the main storyline.
In this story its in fact that spear wielding, apple munching redhead Kyokou Sakurai who takes the spotlight as she finds and takes in Yuma, a young orphan who, despite kyoukos best efforts, is inextricably drawn into her world when a sudden rash of Magical girl slaying’s make there way into Kyoukos neck of the woods.

To is credit, and like the anime, the villains of the piece are not simple cookie cutter villains, but instead realistically drawn out people with motivations – indeed at times you can see things from there perspective[twisted as they are].
While the artwork is detailed and able to clearly I.D. Each character my chief complaint about this series is the sudden lurch from kyoukou and Yuma  and instead towards an ending that felt less story driven and more to sell more titles to the Madoka fanbase.

Kazumi magica

Kazumi magica, out of the three here, both stands on its own from the main series – and yet feels the least like Madoka – Allow me to explain……
In this [to date] 2 volume series We are introduced to our heroine Kazumi, a girl with no memories of her past and yet who has the powers of a Puella Magi, and her battles with witches. Kazumi in her none magical times lives with soccer mad Karou and popular writer Umika, fellow teens and both Puella magi [both of which are themed on their pastimes – Karou’s a football based attack, complementing Umika’s ability to create a book capable of various abilities]. Later on the cast is completed with the introduction of the Pleiades saints – a group of Puella magica that Kazumi, Karou and Umika are members of.

And yet we get the hint, like its progenitor, that things are not what they seem – like the fact that the number of attacks by witches seem to also to be related to other Puella magi.

What is Kazumi’s dark secret….?

And what are the “evil nuts”, strange grief saeed life devices that can instantlly turn anyone into a witch, Puella magi or human alike?

And Why are the Pleiades saints themselves hunting other puella Magi?
And all the while, in a more darker twist, we get the hint that Kazumi’s Past may not be as bright nd spunky as the mangas overall plot makes out…..

Be aware though that this series is a stand alone in almost every sense – with the exception of a brief nod to the original Madoka series [ and later on the addition of an all together diiferent version of Kyubey] there will be none of the original cast turning up in this series, making the characters all the more necessary to be able to stand out – which, which while managing to give them all basic character backgrounds and motivations to become Puella magi, that’s all it is – basic.
At the end of the day though, out all the possible areas that could have niggled me, its the artwork in this series, that I find annoying – gone is the detailed artwork of Madoka and Orico, and instead we are given what could best be described as someone trying to copy Noizi Itos style, and yet coming off as nothing more than a pale copy.

All in all, while at two volumes we are only beginning to scratch the surface of this universe, I cant help but wonder if  we’ll be eventually awarded for our patience.

No one could deny the effect that Puella Magi madoka magica has had on anime fandom, and with a western release of the anime coming this year from Aniplex USA, that madoka has the potential to become a necessary addition to any anime fans collection.

But are the manga likewise worthwhile?
Orico, out of the three titles, stands as one that is more suited to fans of Madoka already, as there’s little in the way of introduction to the series or the characters.
With Kazumi – while it would be easy to cross this one off, there are still little hints that keep bringing me back to it every time – just like the anime!
As for Madoka – this one, while intended more for the fan of the anime, is also ideal for non Madoka fans as well, as it gives the reader everything they reed to know and is sill as gripping and as entertaining as the anime.

As of this years New York Comic con American manga publisher Yen press have announced their plan to release the the original madoka manga series in the west, starting next year.

As of this date there are no plans to release either Kazumi magica or Orico magica.


Re: the return of Tokyopop

from T-pops official twitter page:

@debaoki We do have something to share, right now it’s the newsletter. And we’re hoping that we’ll be able to release new manga very soon.

from anime news network –

The new TokyopopManga Twitter account confirmed on Wednesday that it is “hoping that [it will] be able to release new manga very soon.” The account mentioned it is “laying the groundwork for publishing new manga again,” but added that because all of its previous titles had “reverted back to their Japanese publishers” that the company would “have to work to get them back.” The Twitter account also stated the company’s “ultimate goal is to start publishing manga again.”

The Twitter account noted it is “planning on starting with an old license.” The account also stated it plans to release manga in both print and digital form.

and now my thoughts on this

[Deep breath]

Artists Spotlight: Kaoru Mori

In this, the first of hopefully many articles, I’ll be covering the known [and surprisingly less known] works of some of my favorite Mangaka – and maybe introduce you the reader to more of their works. And starting this off I thought id go with one of my favorite [and yet most mysterious] artist.

Kaoru Mori
Kaoru Mori, like many Mangaka, is loathe to reveal herself publicly [in fact the only image I could find of her [other than from fellow mangaka Morihito KaneHira’s “manga diary” article, where he gets to meet her [and promptly goes to mush – see below] was an official artwork from Kaoru herself [see above]

Born in Tokyo in September 1978, At an early age she had developed an absolute love of maids and both English culture and the Asian/ Persian silk road [more on that one later…]. Later on she, like many mangaka, cut her teeth in the world of dojinshi as a member of doujinshi circle “Lady Maid”, working under the pen name of Fumio Agata.
However her big break came in January 2002 when Enterbrain’s Comic Beam magazine picked up Kaoru Mori to create her first series:

2002 – 2006 : Victorian romance Emma.

Regular readers of this blog will need no introductions to this, the series that brought Kaoru Mori’s name into the spotlight of mainstream fandom both in Japan and the west. This tale of a love that crossed the social classes, and the many struggles they faced to cross them, stands out as an outstanding professional debut [with many Mangaka having to need time and many other serials to meet the same level of popularity that Mori would make with this series]. For much of her early days with this work she herself conducted research into the Victorian era, while in later volumes she received help from historical consultant, Rico Murakami, who would later go on to consult on the later Animated adaptation.

2003: Shirley
Originally a creation from her days working with the doujinshi circle “Lady Maid”, Shirley actually pre-dates Emma, despite the publication date.
The first half of the book follows our heroine, Shirley Madison, as she becomes the new maid [despite being only 13] of tavern owner Cranry Bennet and the slice of life adventures that take place.
The the last two chapters of the book are taken up however by 2 separate stand alone stories – one “An afternoon with Nelly and me” follows the relationship between Nelly, a young maid and “little sir” the lonely son of Nelly’s Employer, and their relationship[NOT THAT KIND! – sheesh, readers today…..]
The second story, “Mary Banks” follows our heroine, a long-suffering maid of James Bulletin, an elderly lord with an altogether prankster nature, and their love/hate relationship – despite Bulletins passion for pranks.
Its easy to tell that Shirley is an earlier work of Kaoru Mori’s, with the familiar attention to detail and artistic style, while still in its early days, is still none the less recognizable.

2004:Violet Blossoms
This is an oddity as this is not entirely her own work [she was only responsible for the artwork, while the story was written by Satoshi Fukushima ] and her only story, to date, to take place in contemporary Japan. The story follows two high-school students – Momo Satou, a carefree student who joins the schools art class as an excuse to pursue…extra curricular activities with both her latest bo of the month and an affair with the art class teacher.
However it the other student Sumire Maezono, a withdrawn, prodigy of an art student, who has the strange habit of burning a picture after she has finished it, seemingly obsessed with achieving a piece of art that she is satisfied with, who is the main focus of this story as the two girls, Momo an Sumire, find their live strangely drawn together when Momo asks Sumire to draw a picture of her.

Momo [left] and Sumire - are they as night and day as things may seem....?
The art of this oneshot, like all her other work, has the same standard of well detailed artwork and well proportioned characters and backgrounds, while Satoshi Fukushima’s writing skills fills out the characters, with Momos lack of regard for her own future juxtaposed with Sumire’s obsessiveness to achieve perfection with her art – in fact the only real criticism I can really lay at the feet of this work is the fact that this is was only a single chapter story, as it felt like it could have extended to make a short story of at least 3-4 chapters, without affecting the story at all.

2008 – present: Otoyomegatari [brides story]
Two years after finishing Emma Karou Mori made a spectacular return with her [to date] current work, Otoyomegatari [ or Brides story to use yen press’ English title].
This new series takes us away from Victorian England and instead takes us to the wild wind swept mountains and grasslands of 19th century Central Asia, and in particular a small settlement near the Caspian sea.It is into this environment that we are introduced to Amir Halgal, the daughter of a tribe of nomadic herders, as she is presented to her new husband Karluk Eihon, the son of a Family of formerly nomadic people who have since settled down.
The unusual thing about this arrangement though being that Amir is 20 years old and Karluk is only 12 [at a time where life expectancy was barely into the 30s if you were lucky this kind of arrangement was all too common, and up-until a few hundred years ago were also common In the west], yet this series to its credit never takes the eminently easy route of playing this arrangement for fanservice or raunchiness and instead takes a much more mature approach to it, with the characters showing maturity beyond their years – an all too necessary need at a time when children as young as 15 were expected to take over the family business.
Karluk [left] and Amira
The artwork, as always, is exquisite and well details, and yet Kaoru, in the intervening years between this and Emma, seems to have taken the artistic talent up a notch, with the costumes and environments taking on an almost realistic nature. Additionally this work shows the amount of research that she has gone into this – from the breathtaking environment of Central Asia, to buildings, farming practices, and even innocuous items such as pipes, cutlery, the design of wood panels – even to underwear [don’t ask].

2010 Pariya-san
As much a side story as a spin-off 4 koma of brides story, this series focuses on Pariya, a young girl who is acquainted with Amir, and her attempts to make herself better suited to be selected for marriage [ yay woman’s lib]. The story itself is played for humor, with Pariya trying various roles and situations, with….less than acceptable results.
With no apparent link to the main series, this series is probably more for the dedicated fans of the series.

With one award [the Excellence Prize at the 2005 Japan Media Arts Festival for Emma], “A brides tale” currently ongoing in publisher Enterbrains magazine “fellows!” andwith two volumes to date published, it seems that the futures bright for Karou Mori.

And I for hope that continues for many years to come.

Emma, and Shirley, while originally published in their entirety by DC Comics late manga division CMX comics prior to its closure, are still readily available from good manga retailers and online from Amazon.

A brides tale, however, is currently being published in the west by Yen press, with the first volume already available, with the second volume coming out in October 2011.

Sadly, to date there are no plans to publish Violet Blossoms in the west.

post script
Additionally pleas let me know, either on twitter or on the comments section below, what you thought of this, and whether you’d like to see more spotlight articles like this in the future.