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Phantom Thief Jeanne Vol. #01 Manga Review

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Phantom Thief Jeanne Vol. #1
Phantom Thief Jeanne Vol. #1

A blast from the magical girl past, but does it still hold up today?

Creative Staff
Story/Art: Arina Tanemure
Translation/Adaptation: Tetsuichiro Miyaki

What They Say
High school student Maron Kusakabe has a secret: she’s Phantom Thief Jeanne. She sneaks into private art collections to steal paintings in which demons reside. Jeanne’s task is to seal the demons before they can devour human hearts. So far she’s been able to evade the police on her midnight outings, but now another thief has come onto the scene—Phantom Sinbad—and he’s trying to take the paintings before she does!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
License rescues are increasingly rare in the English language manga market.  Formerly licensed under it’s romanized title Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne by CMX, DC’s failed experiment into the manga market, it didn’t seem like Jeanne was a likely candidate for rescue.  However, it had a few things going for it that many other manga lack, like a publisher happily releasing other titles by the same author that are pulling in the sales numbers to pursue grabbing the missing work.

Jeanne ran in Ribon magazine originally, whose claim to fame is basically inventing the magical girl genre back in the 60s.  Tanemure had an exclusive contract with the magazine for a long time, but this is one of her best known works from that partnership.  It’s a work I had heard of over the years but never bothered to look in to.

Viz has chosen to license the Japanese rerelease of the series, which condenses the volumes down to six from seven along with including updated covers and a bonus color illustration.  It’s nothing fancy, but it looks nice.

The story is fairly nonsensical, even as far as magical girl stories go.  Maron is the reincarnation of Joan of Arc, on a mission to save god from the demon lord by taking out the demons possessing humans.  To that end she is helped in her quest by a diminutive angel named Finn.  They sneak around at night, threatening to steal paintings the demons are using to possess humans, but instead exorcise the paintings using magic chess pieces.  It’s the perfect storm of magical girl elements and things that the author thought was cool randomly pulled out of a hat.

Did I mention Maron is a talented rhythmic gymnast who is constantly trying to be one upped by her best friend Miyako, who acts more like an arch rival?   Oh, and that best friend I mentioned is always trying to catch Jeanne, because she’s the daughter of the chief of police, but can’t seem to make the association that Jeanne is Maron, despite the fact she looks identical and uses the same dance ribbons in her thief disguise?

Speaking of disguise, I can’t figure out what Jeanne’s outfit is supposed to be.  It’s like a cross between a kimono and a school girl outfit, with a giant cross on the front.  It sure is fluffy and cute though.  That character designs don’t seem too far off Tanemure’s more modern series, but there’s a definite angular quality that cements her work as a product of the late 1990’s shoujo scene.  Those enormous eyes have fallen out  of favor in recent years.

As you can imagine, the story doesn’t take itself very seriously.  The bad guys are unorganized and seem to form no real threat.  Everyone always seems to be screaming at each other.  Miyako’s father is never shown normally, he’s always a squat little chibi drawing amid a page of normal figures.  The story is playing even faster and looser with Christian mythology than usual.  It’s silly, it’s over the top, and certainly aimed at the elementary school set despite the lead being high school aged.

There’s only one moment in this first volume where some seriousness creeps in.  In a surprisingly genuine moment, Maron admits to her buddying love interest and potential arch-enemy that she doesn’t know what love is.  Her parents abandoned her during their messy separation, and she lives alone.  I half expected her to be an orphan, that seems to be the modus operandi for these stories, but to be the victim of uncaring parents is a new one.  The revelation is a stark tonal shift compared to everything else going on.

The volume is a fast read despite the slightly thicker page count then a normal single volume.  The story doesn’t waste time with background or set up, when we meet Maron she’s already past the awkward magical girl awakening stage and deep in the business of saving the world.  Her attitude about the whole endeavor is pretty flippant, and it’s implied she’s only doing it for fun and for granted wishes from her guardian angel.  Maron is earnest and hard working, which is a nice change of pace from the klutzy heroine that magical girl series love.

Beyond the silliness there’s not much going on in this first volume.  Maron and Chiaki discover each others secret identities swiftly, and I hope that the drama kicks up in the next volume.  I doubt that it will ever ramp up the stakes to rival the drama of modern magical girl series, but at least it’s not overly cute or confusing.

In Summary
Phantom Thief Jeanne is lovely to look at but there’s not much going on between the ears in this first volume.  The lack of set up didn’t do much to help invest my interest in the lead, and her friends are an uncharismatic group.  The costumes are nice and there’s a ton of silly antics to be had, but otherwise it’s an unremarkable series as far as magical girl stories go. It lacks the otherworldly mystical air of something like Sailor Moon, and doesn’t have the emotional punch of Card Captor Sakura.  Still, this is an nice edition of a long out of print title and I’m sure a few people will be happy to finally fill out their Tanemure collection.

Content Grade: C 
Art Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B +
Text/Translation Grade: A 

Age Rating:  13+
Released By:  Viz Media
Release Date:  March 4th, 2014
MSRP: $10.99

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