Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Magia the Ninth
GN 1 & 2
Sumura Takeru's parents were recently murdered by a demon, a fact that no one seems to know but him. Desperate to avenge them, he seeks out a group of exorcists who use the souls of great composers to channel powerful classical music-based spells to destroy such monsters. The group is led by Beethoven, and he sees potential in Takeru, granting him the soul of Brahms and allowing him to join the group as his gofer. But there's a schism amongst those with musical souls, which turns out to have a strange relationship with the deaths of Takeru's parents. Will his revenge become more trouble than it's worth?
They say that music soothes the savage beast, but rarely is that taken quite so literally as in Ichiya Sazanami's two-volume manga series Magia the Ninth. The premise of the story will be vaguely familiar to fans of the anime ClassicaLoid since it uses many of the same characters: Beethoven, Liszt, Schubert, and Bach have all been reincarnated in modern-day Japan. The difference is that they've not so much been reborn as had their souls borrowed for the purposes of demon hunting – their great musical talents fuel spells wielded by attractive young men, who use them to banish or kill demons plaguing humanity. It's never made clear why it has to be the souls of great composers, so I'm forced to return to that old saying – music somehow has the power to quell monsters.
Our protagonist is Sumura Takeru, a high school student who has recently lost his parents to a demon attack. Although he survived, he was left with a strange mark on his hand, a constant reminder of his parents' horrible fates. His anger and grief consume him to the point where he seeks out the magia, musical exorcists, in the hopes that they can help him. Much to his disappointment, Beethoven (who thinks of himself as the leader of the group, although Bach could be said to actually hold that role) refuses to work with Takeru, but after he sees the boy's potential, he changes his mind and grants him the soul of Johannes Brahms, the third of classical music's great “Three Bs.” Takeru is able to use Brahms' power to destroy a demon, but only once. After that, he seems to have no resonance with the composer's soul, making Beethoven treat him with disdain. Fortunately, he's not the only magia in the group – two of the students at Takeru's school are Liszt and Schubert, while an older gentleman who goes by Bach runs a café where everyone congregates. Liszt is willing to try to teach Brahms when Beethoven gives up, but of course that just brings its own set of problems.
This unfortunately reveals one of the series' chief weaknesses: a slapdash approach to characters and storytelling. For a two-volume series, the plot moves at an awkward pace, wasting time on showing how callous Beethoven can be before revealing Liszt as the character with a hidden sadistic side. Most of this is done at Takeru's expense – he just sort of floats through the pages with a wide-eyed expression as if he's baffled and vaguely frightened by the whole story. While this does work for an eventual reveal in volume two, it doesn't make things very compelling before that point.
The introduction of Mozart near the end of volume one marks a major turning point for the plot, and the second half of volume two is when things start getting interesting. Although the truth about Takeru isn't particularly surprising, especially if you've seen much exorcist media, it's done decently well. With another volume, it could have made for a much more compelling turn. Sadly, this is all that was written of Magia the Ninth, so we're left not knowing what will happen to Takeru or even Mozart's motivations beyond his apparent obsession with love. Also left in the lurch are Takeru's childhood friend, who at first looked as if she might become a more important character, and Tchaikovsky, who's either an owl who can turn into a girl or a girl who spends a lot of time as an owl. This confusion speaks to the underdeveloped characterization; both Tchaikovsky and the childhood friend feel as if they were shoved into the story just to make the cast not exclusively male.
At least there's no visual problem with making the majority of the characters guys. While Sanzanami makes some odd choices in the illustration of light (Takeru often looks like he's wearing pants with large checks on them rather than fabric that reflects the light), the characters all comfortably fit into various bishounen types, with Liszt providing a bit of fanservice. The demons are all interestingly drawn, and Tchaikovsky makes a very cute owl just crying out for a plush version. Action scenes are competently handled as well; the chief complaint is that the story flow is choppy in terms of layout, sometimes feeling as if a page or a panel has been skipped when scenes transition.
Magia the Ninth feels like a story that got cut off just as it was getting started. Had it gotten off the ground faster, it might have fared better, but the pacing drags until Mozart's introduction and then starts dragging again afterwards. It also suffers from overuse of standard exorcist tropes, from Solomon's Key to the characters' personalities, while underusing its female characters and basic concept of classical composers. It's a decent series and a fun little break, but unfortunately it doesn't go further than that.
Overall : C-
Story : C-
Art : C
+ Picks up in its second half, some nice demon designs and use of music note imagery
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