Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Mayuri Tanahashi's late father was an anime director/creator who was edgy in all the wrong ways. Her favorite of his creations was a magical girl show called “Pretty Angel NirBrave,” which wasn't particularly popular but retains a small cult following. One day the lonely nineteen-year-old is reminiscing over her dad's old computer when she accidentally summons the heroine, NirBrave, to the real world to be her friend. In a classic case of “be careful what you wish for,” Mayuri quickly learns that magical girls are perhaps better left on paper than in the flesh…
You love your favorite PreCures and Sailor Guardians, but how well would they fare imported into our world wholesale? That's what the unfortunate Mayuri Tanahashi is about to find out when she accidentally summons Pretty Angel NirBrave from her late father's old computer. Mayuri's dad was an “edgy” anime director and creator best known for starting the Pretty Angel franchise (a Pretty Cure reference)…except that the only Pretty Angel show that he worked on, the first, was quickly forgotten because of its needlessly sexual transformation scenes and other elements that made it unsuitable for its intended audience of little girls. In fact, most people don't even realize that Pretty Angel NirBrave WAS the first in the now-popular series and Mayuri, as his daughter, is one of the few remaining fans left. Sad and lonely now that she's living on her own in college, Mayuri makes a wish over her dad's computer for NirBrave to appear and be her friend…and lo and behold, a tear on the ancient machine shorts it out and summons her to the real world! It's sort of like Video Girl Ai, except that NirBrave is exactly as she was intended to be – and that's a problem.
Perhaps the best comparison would be if Usagi from Sailor Moon suddenly dropped into your life. Not Usagi as if she was a regular human being, though – Usagi exactly as written from the classic anime. With her ludicrous clumsiness, drive for justice and assumption that people behaving badly or oddly must be possessed by the evil of the season, and her screeching wails, she'd stand out very quickly, and not in a positive way. That's basically what happens to Mayuri. NirBrave is forced to “follow her script” – in other words, she can only behave as Mayuri's dad wrote her. That means that she behaves like a character rather than a person, full of the same caricatures of teen girl behavior and the appetite of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Things like grocery shopping and the fact that humans don't always behave as expected are totally outside of her ken, plus she uses her powers willy-nilly without realizing (or caring) that they'll be looked at a little differently outside of fiction. All of that would have been bad enough on its own, but there's also a strange metafictional component to NirBrave's behavior: she talks about her script, she sometimes shows up looking off-model because some episodes were outsourced, and she's very bitter that no one is aware that her show was the first in the Pretty Angel series. She also refuses to de-transform because she hates the way she looks, so she spends the entire book running around in her sparkly outfit with long pink hair, which is something of an embarrassment for Mayuri. (Or at least an additional one.)
Ryouichi Yokoyama's writing makes off of this feel just as absurd as it sounds without ever going too far into ridiculousness. NirBrave never feels too much like a caricature of a magical girl protagonist – her actions are all familiar and can be related to most of the kiddy franchise heroines with just enough of a sarcastic edge to remind us that this is a parody series. She's obnoxious, but even when she gets close to being too irritating we can look at her behavior and remember when this or that magical girl did something very similar. That doesn't mean that Unmagical Girl will strictly appeal to those familiar with the genre, but it may well be funnier if you're well-versed in the basics of magical heroine tropes and behaviors. Manmaru Uetsuki's art provides a fanservice aspect that is profoundly unsexy but still awkward when you think of the characters as being from a kiddy show – there's plenty of underwear shots (a few with some genital definition), mostly from either Mayuri or NirBrave acting contrary to how girls “should.” (That holds doubly true when another member of NirBrave's team shows up towards the end of the book.) Although there is a general cartooniness to all of the characters, NirBrave still manages to stand out as even less real than the rest of the cast, which is pretty impressive feat and also works well with the way the story is written.
Unmagical Girl's first volume is an exercise in absurdity that really works. From NirBrave's familiar character traits to poor Mayuri's attempts to not only befriend her, which turns out to be more difficult than she initially thought, but also to not go bankrupt feeding her, this is a fun, silly story that knows how to make the most of what it's working with. At times the jokes fall flat, like NirBrave at the mixer, and the art can get a little too caught up in weird poses when she's not supposed to be having an off-model moment, but for the most part, this is a goofy – and yet probably more realistic – look at what would happen if your favorite magical girl really did come to live in our world.
Overall : B
Story : B+
Art : B-
+ Good use of magical girl tropes for comedy, fun and silly story
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