Puella Magi Kazumi Magica: The innocent malice – Another snapshot into the world of Madoka Magica

399px-Kazumi1engHey guys! I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise that I am a massive fan of all things magical girl, especially given the fact that my first review on this blog was of one such anime.  I was raised on classics such as Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura, and my all-time favourite anime shall forever be the masterpiece known as Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. From the first episode, this anime oozed an atmosphere of mystery and wonder, and it was obvious that this anime was something quite unlike anything that had come before. As it turned out, my intuition was right, with the story of Madoka Magica spawning an entire sub-genre of dark magical girl anime, all attempting to monopolise on what made the original great. Sadly, many of these copycats are rather dull and uninspired, while others – like Magical Girl Raising Project – take the best elements of the genre and give it their own twist. What many people fail to remember, however, is the many spin-off manga that have been produced by the original creators of Madoka Magica, the Magica Quartet, all of which set within the same universe as the original but with a totally different cast. While I do intend to eventually delve into each of these manga in turn, this week on our trip down the otaku rabbit hole, we have a manga morsel for you in the form of Puella Magi Kazumi Magica: The innocent malice, the first of the spin-off manga to have been released.

I will issue a warning for this manga in advance, however. Even though the events taking place in Kazumi Magica do not involve the original cast, this manga assumes that you have some prior knowledge of the lore within Madoka Magica and approaches the series in a way that may spoil the overall impact of the original. As such, I would highly recommend watching the Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica anime before reading this series or risk having both feel like lesser experiences. With all of that out of the way, buckle up everyone and let’s get started.

Story

The story this time follows the titular character Kazumi. Our story begins with Kazumi breaking out of a box – naked and with no memories of what led her to her unfortunate incarceration. After an altercation with the police, in which the man who found her is accused of plotting to bomb a shopping centre, Kazumi is met by a pair of her friends and returned home. Having settled back into her everyday life somewhat, this sense of calm is shattered when the police woman from the bomb investigation confronts Kazumi at her home – warping into a monstrous creature (Witch) in front of Kazumi’s very eyes and attempting to kill her. In her desperation, Kazumi transforms into a magical girl to defend herself and her home, and manages to defeat the Witch.

For the remainder of the manga, Kazumi and her friends, all of whom are also magical girls, find themselves combatting evil Witches, while providing exposition and essential lore for those uninitiated into the world of Madoka Magica. While not as impactful as the original series, the sense of foreboding is thick in this series from the get-go, with a sinister figure looming eternally in the background – biding her time and waiting to strike down Kazumi.

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Umika and Kaoru – best friends of Kazumi and magical girl team extraordinaire

I must admit that the reveal of the magical girl team, the Pleiades Saints, comprised of seven girls (including Kazumi) who all fight together to combat the threat of witches, really did intrigue me. Most intriguing of all, however, was the combination magic performed by these girls – you can really feel the comradery and the reliance they have for one another.

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The Pleiades Saints in action (minus Kazumi)

While there is little in the way of development here for most of the magical girls present, that is something I can assure you is built upon in later volumes, so don’t despair – you will find out what drove them to become magical girls, for better or for worse.

In the final shot of this volume, we see the sinister, yet adorable smiling creature looming above the girls that fans of the original series will immediately recognise. What does this mean for the girls? What will happen? Will this be a tale with a happy ending? Ultimately, you’ll have to read more to find out!

All I will say is, as someone who has read the entire series, this manga is one that takes the ideas and concepts found in the Madoka Magica and applies a new lens over it. This is far from the same tale we know and love, but it’s definitely one that’s worth checking out and is a worthy addition to the world of Madoka Magica!

Art direction

This manga is quite honestly an absolute beauty. While the artist is not the same as that of the original Madoka Magica anime or manga, this acts as one of Kazumi’s greatest strengths, providing a similar yet ultimately distinct identity to Kazumi Magica from what came before. The designs of the magical girls range from understated and delicate to impressively overt. Characters are expressive and detailed, and everything feels well thought out and beautifully rendered.

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One of many emotional scenes – Kazumi is a cute manga but it has a dark edge

If I did have a minor complaint about the overall art direction, it would be with the Witches’ designs. For those faced by Kazumi and co. in the first volume, the designs feel lacklustre and the uncanny-otherworldly feel of the Witches in the original anime is sorely missed. This is a very minor complaint in reality so, despite this, its shouldn’t majorly affect your experience, but was an issue I found when reading.

Another slight problem here is the overtly suggestive and sexualised beginning sequence. With Kazumi being naked in the first 4-5 pages, there is one frame in particular that seems too overtly sexual in which Kazumi sits naked on the crotch of a man considerably older than her – and this does not fit with the rest of the manga. Admittedly, this tale is a considerably more risqué take on the world, with more revealing costumes than the original. The unfortunate naked encounter at the beginning may be enough to put some people off, but please be aware that this is not a sign of what’s to come and there is a fantastic story to be found here.

Final thoughts

While Puella Magi Kazumi Magica: The innocent malice doesn’t earn the crown for my favourite spin-off title in the franchise, it provides a rich story with a cast of interestingly deep and diverse characters. This first volume provides its fair share of action-packed and foreboding moments, but sadly this is often weighed down by excess exposition and mandatory lore that is vital for anyone jumping into this manga with no prior knowledge of the franchise. However, while imperfect, I can say that this first volume packs a level of charm and polish that should be more than enough to draw you back ready and eager for the next volume. For fans of magical girls, and particularly of Madoka Magica, this spin off series is a must read and will surely help scratch the itch while waiting for the upcoming anime Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Gaiden. All 5 volumes of this series are available both digitally and physically, so there’s no reason to miss out!

With that, we have again reached the end of our trip down the otaku rabbit hole. I really hope you enjoyed this week’s review. We’ll be back once again next week with more otaku goodies for you to enjoy. Until next time, keep it weeby!

Loplop x

DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN ANY OF THE IMAGES USED IN THIS REVIEW. ALL CREDIT FOR THE IMAGES GIVEN TO THEIR RESPECTIVE OWNERS.

 

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