Ultra Maniac Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Art Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 3 & Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 8.99
  • Pages: 192
  • ISBN: 1-59116-917-8
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Ultra Maniac Vol. #01

By Eduardo M. Chavez     August 12, 2005
Release Date: July 05, 2005


Ultra Maniac Vol.#01
© Viz Media


Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Yoshizumi Wataru
Translated by:Koji Goto
Adapted by:

What They Say
Shy Ayu Tateishi has just made a new friend at school. But this new friend, much to her surprise, is no ordinary classmate. Nina Sakura may look like a normal school girl, but she's got a big secret.

She's a witch.

Or, rather, she's studying to be a witch. And, apparently, she's not doing her homework. Her spells are devastating in their ineffectiveness and often result in the most embarrassing situations for poor Ayu.

But things wouldn't be so bad if Nina's sorcery didn't make Ayu look silly in front of the one boy she secretly adores. All she wants is a simple love potion. What she gets, however, is a new best friend who almost flunked out of witch school!

The Review
Ayu just made a new friend. Nina is cute and funny and she has a secret... She is a witch. Okay she is a witch in training and okay maybe she doesn’t want to share her special talent since it doesn’t work well most of the time.

But Nina isn’t the only person in Ayu’s life that has something to hide. Hopefully, no one will get hurt.

Packaging:
UltraManiac is one of Viz Media's initial Shojo Beat Manga titles and the production values are pretty nice. Presented in a digest sized tall B6 this title is printed right to left. On the cover Viz has kept the original cover art featuring the two leads, Nina (left) and Ayu, in casual wear on a black starry background. The soft colors really stand out on the black background.
The logo is pretty simple, looks like a funky Veranda in light blue, which matches the color for the volume number and artist listing. The letters are arranged similarly to how the kana was placed which was cool to see. Above the logo is a cute little SB logo in magenta (or maybe it's hot pink). It looks very similar to the SJ logo; so much so I had to do a double take. The back cover has a long volume description blurb and an image of Nina in a gothic lolita outfit. Product placement is all over. Big "ShojoBeat: Manga from the Heart" above the blurb. Then there is the obligatory bubble stating "The Real Drama Begins" above the image. And of course, there is tie-in message noting that the manga inspired the anime beneath both.

Inside, Viz just jumps into the manga. The printing is a little on the dark side when I compare it to my Shueisha versions. Fortunately, Viz keeps the original volume header, chapter headers, mangaka free talks and bumper art. The ato-gaki that was in the Shueisha version is not here but Viz does include a bio on the mangaka and ads for: Full Moon and Fushigi Yugi: Genbu Kaiden.

This volume has a disclaimer noting that scenes may have been altered from the original.

Artwork:
Some of you might remember Yoshizumi’s art from her work on TOKYOPOP’s Marmalade Boy. As this series began years after that, the designs are much cleaner and inline with current fashion and trends. Yeah, characters are a little long, but at least they are not that far off proportion. Lots of nice inking and very good costume designs, that keep her art looking fresh.

Backgrounds are just there, but at times I really don’t care. That is because the layout is pretty active. Yoshizumi uses a variety of panel sizes and placements. Perspective is really good, but its not as fancy as other titles.

SFX/Text:
Viz translates SFX with overlays. The retouch is real clean and the SFX they use look pretty good. Best of all they do not compromise art at all.
The translation is fine. I noticed a couple typos but nothing serious. I was a little frustrated that Viz did not use honorifics, well Japanese honorifics, for this series. Viz uses non-conventional English terms instead. For "senpai" they was Ms./Miss. For "-chan" they use dear. The translation maintains the integrity for the most part, but there are things like "witches invented computers and the internet" that were not in the original. Viz also changes the grades the characters are in. Ayu and friends are in 8th grade but Viz has changed it to 7th. Ayu's fans are now 6th graders instead of 7th. Basically, Viz changed the grade system Japanese K6/9/12, to one used in many parts of the US K5/8/12.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Everyone has a secret or two they keep. The reasons obviously vary from person to person, but ultimately secrets are kept because people have things to hide. They can be hidden from society as a whole, or they could be kept away specifically from a single person. Sometimes they are kept to cover up the truth. Sometimes they are just stories that are just never told. Then there are times when lies are made to mislead others. Sometimes they are lies. In the end many secrets kept do not stay hidden for long, but maybe that is why they are made.

Ayu has a secret. She is one of the coolest girls in her middle school. She is stylish, calm, reserved and humble. She does okay at school, looks after her classmates and is a good athlete. Ayu tries to see things from their perspectives and is a pretty good negotiator. People look up to her cause nothing seems to faze her and from a middle school girl that is something to respect.

Nina has a secret. She is a new transfer student who is cheerful and curious. She is a good friend and despite her academic shortfalls and lack of common sense, she is fateful to the core.

Tetsushi has a secret. He is possibly the most popular kid in his school. He has good grades, is on the baseball team and even has the ninth-graders drooling over him. He is kind and good spirited. Truly a dream come true for most of the girls in his school.

But as I said they each have secrets. Some are harmless. Nina's secret is so much so no one would believe it if she told them. When Ayu found out she first laughed it off and then she cried because she'd rather Nina kept it to herself. Then there are those that are misleading. Both Tetsushi and Ayu fall into this category. They put on a face that is not themselves. Ayu does it for a specific purpose and has come to appreciate what she has become, because of it. Tetsushi seems to reject it. It is a chore for him and he would rather not have to go through the motions of acting like something he is not. It has made him a bit resentful and possibly a little jealous, completely in contrast to the persona that has made him so popular amongst hi peers and the staff at school.

Eventually people will find out what these secrets are. And when that happens what will these kids do? Will they come clean and just be themselves like Hiroki (the star tennis player slash proud Doraemon fan), or will they try to cover up their plans with even more secrets. The results could be embarrassing to say the least. Lets hope no one's feeling get hurt.

Comments
Keeping up appearances can be a full time job for some people. Working hard to create the appearance of something they are not is not only misleading to others but in its essence it is the persistent lying to oneself for vanity. Quite often those who try this are not very good at what they do, for to live up a lie the truth must be suppressed and covered up.

On the surface UltraManiac is a fashion friendly middle school maho-shojo title. (Has Yoshizumi ever done high school before?) Romance, magic and comedic interactions abound, but there are some pretty serious undertones present as well.

Ayu is basically trying to become an ideal person for someone she really does not know well. She has basically decided to start over to win the affection of someone everyone is after. Her chances are slim and she really could be harming herself to maintain this image, especially with someone like Nina around her to cause even more trouble for her. Her feelings are clouding her judgment and they are also preventing her from expressing her emotions to the one she wants to share them with.

Nina's situation is also a bit deeper than just her being a witch. She is a somewhat of a failure, living away from her family to work on her trade. It must be embarrassing for her to have to be on her own like this and the fact that she is not improving might be as well.

Tetsushi's is only touched on at the very end of this volume, but it really got me wondering about this series. This kid is almost perfect, but there is something up with him. Maybe being mister cool and having ladies falling over him is not all it is made up to be.

I might be alone here, but I see something that is beyond just magical girls. I see a story about self-confidence and self-esteem. Middle school is a tough time for young people because they are going through a key developmental age, where sense of self is critical. I think Yoshizumi-sensei knows that and her characters, outside of Nina and Hiroki are having problems with it. Magic can always make things look nice on the surface for a while, but eventually the spell wears off and then the truth is revealed. When that happens some cannot handle the truth.

Fun stuff.

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