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Title:
  Magical X Miracle vol 1 (ongoing series)

UK Distributor:  Tokyopop

Author:  Yuzu Mizutani

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  £6.99

Number of Pages:  189

ISBN:  1-5981-6328-0

Reviewed:  25th November 2006

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)

 

People of a certain age may remember a harmless romantic comedy that came out in the early nineties called Dave.  In the film the President of the USA has a stroke and to prevent a scandal the Chief of Staff decides to put a lookalike in his place.  A regular guy called Dave is picked for the task and has to learn how to act like the president, and predictable social faux pas and drama ensue.

Now take the same premise and stick it in a fantasy world, where the president is instead the head wizard of a powerful kingdom, and the regular guy is a girl who is just starting her magical studies.  And thatís basically Magical X Miracle.  The girl Ė Merleawe Ė is your typical manga heroine, young and clumsy but kind-hearted with hidden strength and talent.  Her problems start when she runs into the Castle guard Vaith, who drags her to the castle where she meets the head wizardís advisors Glenn, Fawn and Yue.  They tell her that the Great Wizard Sylthfarn has gone missing and plunged the country into crisis.  His magical ability keeps the balance of power on the continent and should other countries learn of his disappearance it could lead to all out war.  As Merleawe is the spitting image of Sylthfarn they want her to stand in for him until he returns, and - considering the fate of the kingdom is on the line - she agrees.  She soon wishes she hadn't though.  The training she has to undergo to pass as Sylthfarn is arduous, plus she has to keep up her magical schooling too.  With the first test of her abilities as a stand-in Sylthfarn fast approaching in the form of a Royal dinner, time is running out - does she have what it takes?
 

Well, you can probably guess the answer to that, but with all these kinds of triumph over adversity style stories it's not so much the final outcome but how the characters get there that counts.  Magical X Miracle doesn't exactly do anything that you haven't seen before, but it's a nice fun story nonetheless.  Yuzu Mizutani aims the series squarely at a young female audience, with cute artwork and stunningly handsome male characters populating a European-style fantasy world.  Merleawe may be a stereotypical manga heroine but she is

likeable and easy for the target audience to identify with, and the similarly stereotypical supporting cast are pretty good too, particularly the 'older brother' figure that is Vaith.  The art is decent, and both comedy and drama are handled well, but there were things that could have been done better.

The story is incredibly character driven, and the focus is so strongly on Merleawe and her struggles with her Sylthfarn role that it neglects her normal life.  Pretty much the whole book is spent with her acting as Sylthfarn, learning to act as Sylthfarn or worrying about acting as Sylthfarn, and it misses the opportunity to show how she is getting on at school or what she does at home.  There are a couple of truncated shopping trips with completely two-dimensional school friends and some shots of her falling asleep in class, but where's the rest of her life?  Her sense of struggle loses something when you only see one side of her, and there's no sense of how it is affecting her in school.  The setting is underdeveloped and there is a huge lack of originality throughout too.  As mentioned the plot is very similar to existing stories, the characters are straight out of the Big Book of Fantasy Stereotypes (gentlemanly priest, rowdy swordsman, aloof wizard, ditzy princess etc...) and the most of the comedy scenes and dramatic twists have been done before.
 

 Despite all this it is somehow still enjoyable though.  A lot of that is down to the amount of effort Mizutani puts in to get under the skin of Merleawe, she may be stereotypical and one-sided but her fears and struggles are laid bare by the author.  You want her to succeed, and in a story like this that's the most important thing for an author to get across.  The comedy may be predictable but it's still fun and the punchlines and visual gags are delivered well.  There are some moments when it gets a little darker than you may expect too - particularly when Merleawe meets a seriously ill woman and doesn't have the power to help her.  It's

times like this when it shows signs of being a little more interesting, even if it doesn't quite have the emotional impact it should do, but at the moment it's just fun but unremarkable.

Magical X Miracle vol 1 is an enjoyable tale of social readjustment and personal struggle which suffers from a lack of originality.  Only the main character has any real depth, and even with her we only see one side of the story.  It may do nothing new but it's fun and it has some good moments - particularly Vaith's tactics for getting Merleawe into the castle unseen (they include putting her in a sack!).  It has plenty of room for improvement, but if you like rags-to-riches fantasy with a touch of magic and gorgeous guys then give it a go.  If not, turn your attention elsewhere.

Extras:

The usual ads and next volume preview are bulked out with a couple of entertaining short manga strips about the author and some bonus artwork.  Now, if only I could work out why she draws herself as a penguin I'd be happy...

Ratings

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