Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Magical Angel Creamy Mami and the Spoiled Princess
You know the story of Creamy Mami, the idol sensation who is secretly elementary schooler Yuu Morishita transformed with help of Posi and Nega, the magical cats. But what about her rival, Megumi Ayase? Is Megumi really just a mean and horrible person who has it in for Mami? Or is it possible that she's just struggling to hold onto her position in a world that thinks that there can't be two queens of pop at the same time?
Even if you think you know a story, it's often worth going back and re-examining it from a different angle. That's the basic premise of Magical Angel Creamy Mami and the Spoiled Princess, a retelling of the original Magical Angel Creamy Mami TV series that shifts the perspective over to Megumi Ayase, the antagonist of the show. It's equal parts looking at the story from a different place and with the perspective of being older, giving us the idea that maybe the eponymous spoiled princess is actually just a young woman fighting to maintain relevance in an industry that's all too eager to throw her away for not being the newest thing anymore.
One of the ways that the book succeeds in this is by following the plot of the 1983-84 series very closely. The only major changes to the plot are those necessitated by having a new point of view character, and that helps to color how Megumi's story comes across. Viewers of the original may have had some idea that Shingo, the girls' boss, is an absolute toad, but seeing him through Megumi's eyes and experience makes that even clearer. Shingo deliberately pits Megumi and Mami against each other – something Mami's too young to understand – and bad-mouths Megumi to all and sundry, negating the hard work that she does to maintain her career by framing her as being high maintenance and bratty. "Spoiled princess" is an epithet laid upon her by a misogynist workplace culture and what we today recognize as the unhealthy disposability of young pop stars. If anyone is forcing Megumi into spoiled brathood, it's Shingo and his treatment of her.
And Megumi really does work hard. Flashbacks tell us that she and Shingo started out together, and it was their mutual hard work that brought Parthenon Productions to the stage where it is today, as one of the premier production companies. Throughout the volume, we see Megumi running, exercising, practicing, and doing her absolute damnedest to be a professional – there are barely any scenes of her just resting or relaxing, giving the impression that she's always striving to maintain her image and career. We get the distinct impression that this is the norm for her, and that she's had this level of drive and commitment from day one, making it something that perhaps once won her praise or at least positive acknowledgement from Shingo. That he's now ignoring all of it and denigrating her to pretty much everyone, including to her face, while chasing after some ingenue who clearly doesn't even want to be an idol singer, is blatantly unfair and cruel. It doesn't matter that he tells Kidokoro, Megumi and Mami's manager, that he knows Megumi will be fine – it's still a jerk move and not one he's bothering to explain to Megumi at all. She may be older than Yuu, but she's still human, and what he's doing stings.
Since the plot follows the trajectory of the original anime series, the manga remains set in the early 1980s, with no attempts to update it. In part this may simply be because Creamy Mami is basically sacrosanct, but it does feel like it maintains the integrity of the story, which doesn't have to go through convolutions in order to account for the existence of technologies that didn't exist in the 1980s, like smartphones or the internet, which would have drastically changed some of the basic plot points. (Good luck hiding where you live in the age of digital cameras, Yuu.) It also means that the inherent magic of Mami's, well, magical performances remains, because the setting ensures that there's no other possible way she could pull off what she does. As a fun bonus, creator Emi Mitsuki includes little notes about 1980s pop culture in between chapters, such as what the game systems available were and other things that offer readers who watched the series when it aired a little extra nostalgia with their manga. That Mitsuki does a great job mimicking the basic look of Akemi Takada's original character designs is also very nice. While they aren't as soft and dreamy as Takada's work, they're also faithful to the basic look of her drawings, which gives the manga a solid feeling of being directly linked to the 1983 TV series.
But perhaps the strongest point in Magical Angel Creamy Mami and the Spoiled Princess' favor is that it's not just about the nostalgia. Mitsuki makes a real effort to show us who Megumi is as a person, making us realize that she's not just the shrieking antagonist she came off as back in the day – this is a real person who is genuinely being mistreated by the people around her. She's been working herself to the bone for a company that's at least appeared to have lost interest in her, gets publicly humiliated by Shingo whom she once felt close to (we're not sure in what way, but he's really not that much older than her, so there could have been romance), and is being torn down behind the scenes, even being blamed for things that are in no way her fault. She's a professional in an increasingly unprofessional environment, and even if you don't agree with her actions – and she does go too far at least once – the manga makes it possible to see where she's coming from.
Maybe that's a more twenty-first century interpretation of a character from the twentieth. But Megumi's situation is one that lends itself to a retelling of a story we already know. Sometimes it's worth it to go back to our childhood shows and stories and see what else they have to offer us, and that's what this manga does – and well.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : A-
+ Successfully reimagines the story from the antagonist's point of view without changing too much. Art nicely mimics the original designs from the 80s.
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