There’s certainly no shortage of magical girl series available when it comes to manga, particularly with the comeback of Cardcaptor Sakura in recent years and new takes on the genre like Magilumiere Co. Ltd. So, it goes without saying that Yen Press’s new debut Magical Girl Incident has a lot to prove if it wants to attract readers. Will it be able to do the job? Let’s take a look!
The story follows Hiromi Sakura, a burnt-out salaryman who fondly remembers dreaming of becoming a hero in his childhood years. One night on the way home from work, he sees a young girl being attacked by a monster and jumps in to protect her from a fatal blow. Hiromi is under no illusion that he’s traded his life for the girl’s and is prepared to die so long as she’s safe – but then something unexpected happens. Not only does Hiromi not die, he’s suddenly transformed into a magical girl!
There’s no time to figure out what’s going on, so Hiromi rolls with it and fights off the monster. Once defeated, Hiromi barely has time to transform back to his normal self before being spotted by friend and co-worker Yuzuru Saotome. Yuzuru finds it highly suspicious that Hiromi would be hanging around in a park after work and when Hiromi begins acting suspiciously at work the next day, Yuzuru decides to follow him on their next day off, thinking that perhaps romance is in the air…
Of course, we readers are well aware that Hiromi is simply worked up about his newfound powers. He still has no idea what triggered his transformation, nor why he swapped genders, but our protagonist is just happy to have been able to save someone. And he even thinks his transformed form is adorable! For the first time in a long time, Hiromi is happy about his life.
This first volume of Magical Girl Incident isn’t particularly long, coming in at 172 pages and by the time we get to the end of the book, it feels as if we’re only just getting out of the initial set-up. There are still a lot of questions regarding the bigger picture, such as why monsters are popping up in Japan and why Hiromi got his powers (and it seems he’s not the only one!). But I’m willing to let those slide since what we have seen in this first outing is entertaining.
The series divides its content fairly evenly between Hiromi’s magical girl time and his day job. A large portion of each chapter takes place in the office where we meet Hiromi’s dreadful boss as well as some new recruits who are brought onto his team later on in the volume. I appreciate the way the story splits its time and the fact that although Hiromi’s work environment is fairly toxic, the series never lets itself get too bogged down in negativity.
Running in the magazine Young Ace, Magical Girl Incident is a seinen series which is befitting of the darker vibe and older cast of characters. This is mangaka Zero Akabane’s debut work and they do a good job of toeing the line between a comedy and a serious story. This middle ground feels perfect for it as, with the premise, it would be easy to end up too dark and edgy but likewise, an overly comedic tone wouldn’t quite hit the nuance of Hiromi’s storyline. And maybe that’s why as the series goes on, most of the comedy comes from Yuzuru, who quickly finds out Hiromi’s situation and wants to experiment to figure out more about the magical girl powers. He’s also rich, so has a lot of money to spend on said experiments.
The artwork is sometimes lacking in background detail, but Akabane excels at conveying the emotions of the characters, especially in Hiromi’s case where he wears his heart on his sleeve. The action scenes are easy to follow and make use of bigger panels than the rest of the story. I love Hiromi’s transformation scenes too, which involve yanking off his tie to instigate it. But most of all, there’s a real sense that Akabane is having fun drawing it as you watch Hiromi get excited about his powers and see side characters going all sparkly-eyed as they encounter a magical girl for the first time.
This isn’t the first gender-swap magical girl series to make it to the West (Magical Girl Ore springs to mind), but I do think the author deserves praise for how they’ve handled that aspect. In these kinds of stories when a male character becomes female, there’s usually some groping of boobs or comments about their new appearance, but no such thing transpires in Magical Girl Incident. As noted earlier, the most we get is Hiromi proclaiming that his female self is “kinda cute”, which is a very fitting and pure response from our protagonist. And this will certainly make it go over better with readers, who don’t have to worry about any uncomfortable or sexualised comments.
As previously mentioned, Magical Girl Incident Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Yen Press. The series has been translated by Caleb Cook with lettering by Phil Christie. The translation reads well and there’s a page of translation notes in the book which explain some of the references as well as the work culture of Japan. This release opens with a colour page and it’s one of Yen Press’s bigger release formats, akin to Silver Spoon and Kowloon Generic Romance.
The series is finishing in Young Ace next month, which will see it conclude with its third volume. That may not feel like a lot of content, but I think, given what we’ve seen so far, that should still be enough to deliver a satisfying conclusion. Volume 2 of the series is scheduled for an English release in September.
Overall Magical Girl Incident may not have gotten far beyond its initial set-up yet, but it’s off to a promising start. With an older cast of characters compared to those we normally find in the magical girl genre, this is likely to attract a slightly different audience than usual and those readers will have fun watching over Hiromi’s efforts to become a dependable hero.