Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Dec 7th 2013
Puella Magi Oriko Magica
GN 1 & 2
Oriko is a magical girl who can see the future, and she plans to use that power to protect her world. When she has a vision of a girl with enormous magical girl – and witch – potential, she tells Kyubey about a different girl in a bid to preserve her own way of living. But is saving the world worth it if you bring down innocents along the way?
Warning: This review contains spoilers for Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
When Puella Magi Madoka Magica, one of the most talked about magical girl shows in recent memory, ended, it left open the possibility of other stories in the parallel worlds Homura lived through as she sought to change history. Mura Kuroe's two volume series Puella Magi Oriko Magica takes that invitation and brings us a different version of the reality we know from the original story, showing one of the countless trials that had to be suffered through in order to reach the main series. Since this will not be immediately apparent to those who have neither read nor watched PMMM, it is perhaps best to treat this as a sequel, although strictly speaking it would be more along the lines of a prequel. In any event, if you aren't familiar with the first version, you'd be better off rectifying that before diving into PMOM.
Puella Magi Oriko Magica ostensibly focuses on Oriko Mikuni, a magical girl created though a contract with evil plushy mascot Kyubey. The special skill she gained upon making the contract is foresight, and with that she has learned of a girl with enormous potential to become a powerful magical girl. The catch is that this girl will also enact significant changes on not just the world, but on more specifically her world, and this is something that Oriko will not stand for. Since the girl (whom we can all guess is Madoka Kaname, and we know very well what she'll do in the end) is easily within Kyubey's sights should he glance around, Oriko deliberately sends him to Yuma, a troubled little girl recently orphaned by a witch. Yuma has been picked up by Kyoko, and Oriko guides her insecurities so as to pressure Yuma into becoming a magical girl. This, Oriko hopes, will sufficiently distract Kyubey, particularly as there's a mysterious black magical girl who is skulking about, to say nothing of a magical girl hunter. Both of these are tied up in Oriko's perfect world, one which she and her probable lover (or possibly just her very close friend) Kirika Kure have created from the ashes of their tragic former lives.
Probably the main draw of this series for PMMM fans will be the central roles played by Kyoko and Mami. The latter in particular is given a much bigger role than she had in the original story, although her departure arguably had the most significant impact on it. The mechanics of both girls' powers are gone into in more depth, and Mami's strategic mind is put to good use as she fights for her life in a variety of battles over the course of both volumes. Naturally Homura also plays a role, although hers seems insignificant if you are unfamiliar with her particular mission. Strangely Oriko herself plays the smallest part, at least in terms of appearances within the story. While she is ostensibly guiding the actions from behind the scenes, she is the least visible of all of the magical girls, giving her a mythic quality.
Or at least we can see where it's supposed to. The main fault of Oriko Magica is not with its premise – which has potential – but in its execution. Kirika's and Oriko's tragic pasts are flashed to at seemingly random moments, and too much time is spent on the Yuma/Kyoko storyline of the first volume. Yuma herself also very quickly becomes a throwaway character, used to distract Kyubey, make Kyoko sad, and then barely touched on again. Her power, healing, is a highly useful one, but she doesn't do much as the story goes on, and there's a suspicion that she was included so as to allow for a cute character. Her magical girl outfit is complete with cat ears and paw mittens, which is charming, but only strengthens that suspicion.
Kuroe's art is on the whole less polished than that we've seen in other Puella Magi ______ Magica manga, with an overabundance of dark space rendering fight scenes unclear. Kyoko is almost unrecognizable at first (in fact it was her speech pattern that clued me in), and both she and Homura suffer from tragically puffy hair. Mami and Madoka are far more easily spotted, mostly because of their more distinct hairstyles. Bodies look, for the most part, very bendy, and breasts have a tendency to appear as swollen lumps recognizable as such more for their placement than anything else. There is a good sense of movement to action scenes, and Oriko's nurse-like outfit is a nice contrast to her character, and the witches themselves are always interesting to see. Unfortunately the art doesn't do much to enhance a story that takes too long to tell, and in a few places actively detracts from it.
Puella Magi Oriko Magica had the potential to be a very interesting glimpse into the unseen worlds hinted at in its parent series' finale. Unfortunately over-busy, dark art and a storyline that takes too long to get to where its going and isn't wonderfully organized take away from that. It isn't the worst spin-off to ever exist, but it certainly doesn't make the most of what it has either.
Overall : C-
Story : C
Art : D+
+ Interesting premise, a chance to really see Mami in action. Witch designs are interesting, as is Oriko's and Kirika's relationship.
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