Magical x Miracle Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, April 21, 2006
Release Date: Saturday, April 01, 2006
Translated by:Yoohae Yang
What They Say
Merleawe is told her presence is needed for the sake of her country. Merleawe, who studies magic, is persuaded by Vaith to pretend to be the Great Wizard Sylthfarn. Since she bears a strikingly identical resemblance to the great wizard, she fools everyone, except those who know her. Pretending to by Sylthfarn, she promises to protect the people. But, will she be able to live up to those noble words?
TOKYOPOP has done a nice job with this cover. It's a design and color scheme certain to appeal to female readers without such shoujo accoutrements as over-the-top ribbons or obnoxiously bright bubble gum pink tones that might alienate male readers. The cover features Merleawe front and center in her pink School of Magic uniform perched on a staff adorned with wings and a purple orb. Above her head is the series logo in white, which looks more playful than what I'd expect of a Drama/ Fantasy title (I'd expect something more along the lines of script or runes). The TOKYOPOP logo is located to the top right in a narrow vertical white bar, and the volume number and author's credits are in a box to the lower right. The background is comprised of a rich, attractive violet color with a star design in a lighter purplish color. The violet / purple hues harmonize with Merleawe's burgundy boots, pink tunic, and silvery hair splendidly.
On the back is more of the violet star background pattern and the TOKYOPOP logo bar to the left edge. Aligned to the top and the left is a picture of Vaith and Fern. Vaith is sitting on a brick planter edge and facing left, and Fern is standing to his right and facing forward. Neither looks particularly friendly. Below in white font is a summary of the series with manga rating and genre icons in red and white.
Cover, paper, and binding are pretty much the TOKYOPOP standard. The cut of the pages looks fine, but the print job runs dark. Extras include a very charmingly designed table of contents, mini profiles on Vaith and Merleawe, six pages of mangaka postscript (where she draws herself as a penguin!), chapter title art, and ads for other TOKYOPOP titles.
Those who enjoyed CLAMP's artwork in Card Captor Sakura will probably like Mizutani's work. Younger characters have beautifully detailed hair, heart shaped faces, and lovely expressive eyes. However, Merleawe's eyes are occasionally shaded grey instead of black which gives her a really spacey look. Vaith's eyes also look a little strange (Mizutani doesn't darken his pupils at all).
Dress styles are a combination of modern and European period costumes. While Sylthfarn's male followers tend to wear the same things over and over again, there are lots and lots of pretty, ruffly clothes with all sorts of accessories for Merleawe and other female characters to wear (though Mizutani goes a bit overboard with the princess' outfits). Backgrounds are pretty good, and there is a good variation of perspective in her panels. The action scenes are about average.
Her style reminds me so much of CLAMP's that I wonder if Mizutani was an assistant for them, especially with her wing motif (on the front cover, you can see it in Merleawe's braids and on her staff). The wing pops up over and over again and is reminiscent of the wing design that CLAMP's so fond of.
Sound effects translations are typical for TOKYOPOP. In other words, some sound effects are translated with tiny text in the margin, some translated beside the original Japanese, a few with overlays, and most left untranslated. Text quality is average, and magic spells (which are unintelligible) are depicted by little script-looking "words" (this may be from the original Japanese).
Honorifics are changed to English equivalents, and there are no obvious problems with the dialogue. However, other characters do make a big deal about the fact that Merleawe's speech is much rougher than Sylthfarn's more refined, formal speech, but it doesn't really come through consistently in the dialogue. Most of the time, she speaks the same colloquial level of English that everyone else uses. There's only a few "lesson" scenes where she sounds like a hick, and one scene with the king were she (as Sylthfarn) is speaking very formally.
Merleawe of Escato has just arrived to the magical kingdom of Viegald to study at its School of the Magic Arts in hopes becoming a wizard. However, on the way to her very first day of school, she bumps into a tall man in a dark uniform who burst into tears at the sight of her and then promptly carries her off! Despite her cries for help, no one, not even the village guard, intervenes to help, and she finds herself taken against her will to a castle. Turns out that her abductor is Vaith, Head of the King's elite Black Knights, and he has "captured" her because he and his colleagues, Glenn, Fern, and Yue, are in a terrible predicament and need her help--or more accurately, her face.
The four are followers of the Great Magician Sylthfarn, whose astounding abilities are the reason behind his tiny kingdom's power and prominence in the magic arts. However, he has vanished, and without his presence, the stability of the kingdom is at risk. However, Merleawe is a dead ringer for the missing wizard, and, for the sake of the kingdom, they beg her to impersonate him until they can figure out what happened to him. Merleawe agrees, albeit reluctantly, to their request.
After that, her days become a non-stop whirl of activity as she struggles to learn all about Sylthfarn's mannerisms and still keep up with her studies at school. It's an unenviable position. Vaith keeps remarking on Merleawe's flat chest (which is part of the reason she's passing as a guy); Sylthfarn's followers are constantly criticizing her and rarely give any encouragement; and she is forced to endure humiliating disguises to prevent people from learning of their trick because no one outside of Sylthfarn's followers, not even the king, is to know of this deception.
However, Merleawe proves amazingly capable for the task and surpasses all expectations to fool the king, the princess, and the rest of the citizenry. But how long will it last?
There seems to be a glut of cross-dressing stories and mistaken identity stories on the manga market, and Mizutani tries to incorporate both aspects in a rather unconvincing story line.
The plot has two points to keep you interested. One, what exactly did happen to the real Sylthfarn, and two, will Merleawe be able to keep up with these unrealistic expectations that Sylthfarn's followers keep throwing at her?
Unfortunately, this story has glaring issues with its plotline. First of all, only Sylthfarn's four followers know about this impersonation. You would think that they would at least tell the king if the kingdom indeed relies on Sylthfarn (as Mizutani infers it does) for its safety and security. Merleawe's never meant to replace Sylthfarn; she's just there to make it seem like he's still around. If the king in his ignorance made a public request for the fake Sylthfarn to do something out of her capabilities, her cover would be blown immediately. Not to mention that would probably be grounds for treason. Also, all this effort is put into making Merleawe into the perfect "copy," but the real Sylthfarn is still missing. Shouldn't they put some effort into finding him or at least work on how to end the ruse that they started? In addition, Merleawe continues her schooling during all of this. If Sylthfarn is such a big figure, one would think that more people would comment on the resemblance (she's at the Magic Arts School, for crying out loud "wouldn't the instructors notice?). You would think that Vaith and company would anticipate the risks with having their look-alike roam freely during school hours. On top of that, I don't see the incentive for Merleawe to put up with any of Sylthfarn's follower's demands or treatment. The genki "I-want-to-do-the-right-thing" attitude only goes so far, especially at the onset of the story. They're constantly picking on her, she's inconvenienced, and she does not appear to be compensated for her trouble. Not to mention, she's also a foreigner in that kingdom! The list goes on and on.
The story is labeled Fantasy/ Drama. It's got the elements of a fantasy, but the story with its weaknesses makes for a rather problematic drama.
This story is rated 13+ for some swearing, Vaith's comments about Merleawe's bustline, and some inappropriate (IMHO) rear-patting by Vaith.
Mania Grade: B-
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Orientation: Right to Left