With so many insane things happening in the plot, you would never expect this book to be so…bleh.
Story: Magica Quartet
Translation/Adaptation: William Flanagan
What They Say
While Madoka continues to deliberate over the decision to join Akemi as a magical girl, her best friend, Sayaka, seizes the chance to wish for the recovery of the boy she loves. But when Sayaka is caught in a territory dispute with a more experienced (and more deadly) magical girl named Kyouko, Madoka is reminded that being a magical girl is more than a matter of donning a frilly costume and fighting evil…it is also a matter of life and death!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Volume two of Madoka Magica’s manga adaptation continues at the same pacing as volume one, one episode per chapter. Buried within these chapters we move away from focusing on Madoka as a main character and spend time almost exclusively with Sayaka. Picking up from the end of the last book, Sayaka has made a contract with Kyubey and became a magical girl in order to ‘save’ the boy she loves. What follows are four extremely harsh chapters that provide us with the full spectrum of Sayaka’s personality and character. Added into the mix is Kyouko, a selfish magical girl who wishes to lay claim to the city’s territory and introduces herself by starting a fight to the death with Sayaka.
During these chapters, while watching Sayaka grow and change we also begin to learn about the secrets about being a magical girl. These secrets are actually quite devastating as they completely destroy the allure of being a magical girl and add a new layer of danger that was not previously considered a factor. The problem is not with the story regarding these developments, the problem is with the artwork, layout, and pacing. Any emotional impact is all but lost during the revelation regarding soul gems because the chapter was reaching its 20 page limit. Each panel becomes overstuffed with dialogue bubbles with the illustrations becoming too stagnant and dull to really draw readers into the story. Emotion is created through delivery, through multiple illustrations that draw out the urgency of a scene, the turmoil of the characters, the direness of the situation an emotional response can be generated to affect a reader. This manga only gives maybe 2 or 3 illustrations per page that simply show a character in a single actionless pose…and surrounded by enough expository text to sap any investment from the reader.
What follows is the fall of Sayaka. Her absolute emotional despair that spiral into a dark realm that is much more of a reflection on human society and teenage girls than just a plot device for this manga. It’s sad, it’s depressing, and it gets pretty violent. However, once again we are plagued to too many word bubbles and stale illustrations that don’t move the narrative or push required response, it just sits there. During an extremely violent scene, the angle of the pictures robs the scene of any oomph. The panels become too cluttered, the focus being on ‘look at all the blood’. The scene falls into the emotionless territory the rest of the volume has been because of this insistence on expository dialog and shock factor. The problem is, the surrounding panels don’t help the reader gain perspective into the character’s emotional response. We remain on the outside looking in.
What a waste! There are scenes in this book that are constructed extremely well, Kyouko’s backstory confession to Sayaka being one of them; however, all of the important scenes that drive the plot and character development are bereft of this construction. I’ve read a few manga adaptations of anime before and it seems that more often than not they fail to excite or move like the source material. This isn’t to say that you should only be reading these series if you haven’t seen the anime, it’s that something crucial is missing from the translation and it is extremely evident even without prior knowledge of the source. If you are reading a manga and you find that the combination of panels do not construct a narrative flow but are rather stills that simply allow us to see the action/characters…you have a problem. That is what’s wrong with this Madoka Magica adaptation. It isn’t guilty of this crime throughout the whole book, just where it matters. When the revelations are big, the stakes are high, and emotions running rampant is when this manga commits this crime of being dull and poorly plotted out. The actual story and developments are still interesting and attention capturing, but man is it not worth reading this manga for.
Content Grade: C
Art Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B-
Text/Translation Grade: B+
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: August 21st, 2012