Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
MaMaMa - Magical Director Mako-chan's Magical Guidance
Mako is the ultimate honor student and class president at her magic high school in the magic world, and she's determined to keep it up and graduate valedictorian. Not only will this ensure her legacy of perfection at school, but it will also give her a better chance of an apprenticeship with the greatest wizard of them all, Mephisto. To ace her final, she needs to go to the human world and secure the best human soul she can find (temporarily, of course), and to that end she's settled on Jun Onodera, who has a perfect record of good deeds. But little does Mako know that Jun has an identical twin brother, Junji. Let's just say that making a pact with Junji isn't going to look good for Mako's perfect grades…
At least you know what you're getting into with MaMaMa: Seven Seas' tagline for the series, displayed in large print on the back of the volume, is “Bibbity Bobbity Boobs.” That's actually kind of clever (or at least made me chuckle), and it works on two levels – yes, there are in fact boobs in this story, but it's also got decent characters and world building, making it fanservice with plot. That this single volume title comes to us courtesy of Okayado, the man behind 12Beast and Monster Musume explains both things nicely, because while he's never made any bones about enjoying characters with huge breasts, he also has consistently been able to temper that love with stories that are able to stand on their own merits.
MaMaMa predates both of his other titles (as well as the short digitally published in late 2017 by Seven Seas), and that does show. The art isn't quite as polished or stylized and rather than monster girls, this series features lady mages. There are definite hints of where the creator is headed towards the end of the volume, which is a nice treat for fans – an angel girl and a spider monster look very familiar if you think about Okayado's other series.
In some ways this title stands out simply because its male protagonist is the horndog that the girls of Monster Musume wish their hero was. Junji Onodera has a vast collection of porn, walls plastered with scantily clad pin-ups, and a libido the likes of which our poor heroine has never seen. While he's undeniably over the top and does engage in some less than honorable panty peeping, he's also not totally reprehensible, which does help him to stand out in the always-crowded harem genre. Despite the fact that he very definitely wants to engage in some sexy activities with Mako, he also does respect the fact that she's not nearly as into it as he is, and when he can see that she's nervous or upset, he always pulls himself back. This does foreshadow a major reveal about him in the final three chapters of the book so that when the major plot revelation comes, it doesn't feel like Okayado was simply fishing around for a good way to wrap things up. There is a sense that the story was cut off before the author was fully done with it, but for the most part the ending does feel relatively organic.
The title of the book is a good example of the smoothness of the translation. In Japanese, the three “ma”s stand for “Maho Inchou Mako-chan Maho Shidou,” which the full English title manages to replicate in both important syllables and basic meaning: “Magical Director Mako-chan's Magical Guidance.” Keeping the three relevant syllables in itself can't have been particularly easy, but that the basic meaning of the two titles is also retained is really impressive. Yes, there are some differences, but when we consider that translation is really an art rather than a science, this is very well done. The interior text is also nicely adapted, with only one instance of a slang word that will eventually date the book (“adorbs” already feels a little outdated) and an ease of reading that keeps things moving.
That said, it's clear that this story predates his better-known work. While the plot moves well enough, it also lacks some of the creativity and strong world building of Okayado's other series, with the whole magic world versus human world concept feeling a little stale. There isn't much done with the differences between the two worlds either, which again just makes this feel a bit like a boob-filled version of something like Ultra Maniac or any other similarly premised title. We don't get a great sense of Mako as a heroine beyond her devotion to her GPA, and while Junji shows moments of personality, he's also largely a one-note character, albeit not nearly as much as Mako's friends and rival. Artistically the best note is probably Mako's hair antenna, which functions a bit more like an emotion halo, circling her head when she's feeling righteous or secure and otherwise drooping or moving to indicate her uncertainty or unhappiness. Heads are a little too large for bodies in general, and Okayado's odd habit or toning breasts so that they're a different color than the rest of the body that becomes more prevalent in later works is beginning to make an appearance, and it's just as unsettling here as it is in other titles. Large bosomed characters also seem to change breast size by the panel, but since the author specifically mentions that he knows he does that, there's not much more to be said on that front.
MaMaMa is an entertaining single volume story. While it could clearly have gone on a bit longer, and may have been the stronger for it, at least in terms of more fully wrapping things up, it still works as a one shot. It's much more cliché than Okayado's subsequent manga, but it's easy to read, amusing, and doesn't skimp on the fanservice. If you like your boobs and panty shots to come with a plot and some humor, this is a book worth picking up, because even if it isn't as good as his other works, this is still a fun time.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ Entertaining read, plays around with plot and character conventions, good translation
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