Puella Magi Madoka Magica Manga, Volume 1 (English)

September 20th, 2012

The trend in anime, right now, is to draw from Light Novels or Games. But there has always been a steady subset of entertainment properties created specifically to be “saturation series.” Some series graduate to the position of what I’m calling a “saturation” series – take Neon Genesis Evangelion. It was a popular anime, that lingered long after its initial popularity faded in the unlikely form of pachinko machines, until it went through a renaissance and burst back on to the scene with anime movies, manga, new games and related goods.

But of all the saturation series I have experienced in my time as a fan, Madoka is different. Released as anime, manga, light novels and games simultaneously, it exploded like a nova on the Japanese market, related goods everywhere, in every form possible. It was like all the Evangelion lessons of the years had been absorbed and BAM! Madoka radiated beams of media tie-in goods to every single consumer outlet in Japan.

That might have happened here in the west as well, but for three things – Yen and Aniplex didn’t coordinate even a little, so Yen’s printed matter couldn’t use the anime as a funnel for interest and there is, still, pretty much no organized consumer goods distribution in the US for anime-related goods. So, sure, at a con you could find eight thousand Kyuubey-related thingamabobbers, but there wasn’t the high water mark of saturation that those games, figurines, more figurines, even more figurines, extraordinary amounts of clothing, bags, random household goods of varying utility and other toys achieved in Japan.

So, Yen published the Puella Magi Madoka Magica manga and, like, no one noticed. Okay, yes, you can pull up a few reviews if you search for the title and “manga” and “review,” but compare those results to the  paeans of joy and screams of outrage about the anime….

Part of the problem is the above issue of release timing, lack of promotional tie-in, etc and partially, the manga just doesn’t have the impact the anime did. It’s the same story, of course, truncated from the time it takes to watch 12 episodes full of distracting visual imagery to the time it takes to read not quite 200 pages of a comic with somewhat less compelling visuals.

I almost never complain about the art in a manga. I can’t draw, so even the worst art is better than I can do. And really, the art here isn’t awful, it’s just inconsistent in a way that is obvious even to me, and frequently weirdly out of proportion – and not in a cool way. The art has all the hallmarks of a person who learned to draw manga by copying manga, but who never took any life drawing classes.

Other than that, the only true difference is the issue of pacing. I can’t watch a 22-minute episode faster than in 22 minutes. The pacing of the story is not for me to chose. I read insanely fast and as a result, the pacing of this manga was at full speed as I zammed through the volume. It wasn’t compelling enough for me to slow down. This is not to say this manga is, in any way, bad. I just never felt like I wanted to spend extra time with it.

Lastly, there is actually more Yuri in the manga series than there was in (at least my memory of) the anime. Madoka’s friend Hitomi keeps insisting that Madoka and Sayaka are in a relationship. Sayaka doesn’t help by playing the butch to Madoka’s femme – something I do remember from the beginning of the anime. Homura is…Homura, in this first book. Nothing indicative of what will or might come in the second volume. Mami is the perfect sempai, ripe for admiration, until she’s not. So, not like loads of Yuri, but more than I remember from the first half of the anime.

Ratings:

Art – 5
Story – 7
Characters – 6 They almost seem synopses of themselves
Yuri – 4
Service – 2

Overall – 6

It really wasn’t a bad manga, but when compared with the anime and the novels, it comes out on bottom. My very sincere thanks to Okazu hero Andreas L for his very kind sponsorship of today’s review!

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6 Responses

  1. BMeph says:

    You mention timing issues ocncerning Madoka’s popularity…and yet, you don’t mention the Sendai quake/tsunami? Didn’t it come right on the tail-end of the anime’s release?

  2. @Bmeph – Absolutely, the Walpusgisnacht episode was postponed because it would have fallen on, well, Walpurgisnacht.

    But that didn’t affect the Japanese popularity of the series at all. I was musing about the way that the popularity didn’t port to the US, primarily because here we have one company that handles the anime, a different company that does the manga, completely different companies that handle any goods and none of them provide promotion. And, there is not consisteny deluge of distribution as there is in Japan.

    So the great eastern japan disaster didn’t affect the series’ popularity in Japan nor does it have anything to do with the series distribution and promotion in the west at all. ^_^

  3. Anonymous says:

    On saturation marketing:

    I remember some years back being astonished that neither Dark Horse nor Central Park were aware that the other had the North American rights to the respective versions of Outlanders. Thus they had no advertising/marketing plans, etc. I would have thought that level of thing was Marketing 101…

    GClark

  4. invalidname says:

    Thanks. Your comment about pacing is exactly what threw me off about this. It’s easy to bang through these chapters in 5 minutes, but you fly by the pauses, the implications, and of course the revelations.

  5. @GClark – I agree. It seems to me that if *I* were in the position to be the licensee of a media property that had an accompanying media property, I’d do my damndest to try and get us to pool resources. And maybe they did. I haven’t watched the anime release yet, so maybe there is an ad for the manga in the anime. I do know that Aniplex and Yen did not coordinate promotion, which is, from my outsider position, a waste of potential synergy.

  6. @invalidname Exactly so. It took me a while to identify what the issue was, but once I realized what it was, it fell into place. When I was reading the Maria-sama ga Miteru novel chapter “Cherry Blossom”, time practically stood still for me, because I was reading it so slowly. (Merely because of lack of comprehension.) The scenes with Noriko and Shimako were practically in suspended animation. They stared at each other for ages, while I processed their thoughts. It was really very tense and sexy.

    Because this books was easy for me to read, it went by too fast. My fault again, not the book’s fault, but now I have returned to the second Madoka Light Novel in Japanese, with the reminder to read slowly and carefully and let the tension be a key element of the story.

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