Today’s review is for a manga I picked up out of curiosity to see what it was like, and quickly put up for sale again. The reasons will soon become clear.
From looking at the cover, it’s clear why I was drawn in. One of the positives of this manga is that the artwork is adorable! Maybe not up there with Koge Donbo levels of cuteness but still great to look at. And I like the candy imagery throughout the manga.
But once you open the book you get to the not so good part – The story. It starts with a girl called Nina (who stole her hairstyle off Momoko from ‘Wedding Peach’) eating cake with her friends and talking about what her perfect man would be like. Oh good, another typical brain dead shojo heroine. We haven’t seen enough of those, have we? A strange round ball lands on Nina’s cake and she wanders if it is a candy. But all of a sudden a pair of guys in a flying car drop out of the sky and in the commotion Nina swallows the ball.
As it turns out, the boys, Zero and Ichi, are wizards and they have to find a crystal pearl to pass their exam. The same pearl which Nina has just swallowed. But there are other wizards looking for the pearl too and they start to attack, kidnap and even plot to kill Nina in order to get the pearl. And so, Zero and Ichi vow to protect Nina for the 6 months the exam will last. And wouldn’t you know it, brave handsome knights who will protect her are just the type of man that Nina has been looking for!
Although it’s not the best, I did kind of enjoy the first few chapters. I like the original take on wizards. Most wizards seem to be Harry Potter or Merlin rip-offs. My favourite part by far is the character of Sun, a goth girl competing in the wizard exam. She is so hilariously twisted, eating cake with Nina and acting like her gal pal even though she sort of plans to kill her. By far the funniest running gag is that Sun constantly manages to get her male partner Forte to cross dress, sometimes even without his knowledge. The other characters even call out that girl clothes suit him!
However, after a few chapters my interest started to plummet. The stories become lame and sometimes weird and confusing. One of the main plot points is that Ichi gives Nina a lollipop to protect her. When she’s being attacked by giant killer teddy bears (as we all are from time to time) it turns magical and protects her. The weird part is that Ichi says that the lollipop has the same image as Nina because she’s cute. Sorry but I don’t get how being compared to a lollipop is complimentary.
What really turned me off this manga was the main character being a giant damsel in distress. ‘Mamotte’ even means ‘save me.’ Needing to be rescued all the fricking time hardly makes you a likeable main character. It would work if she had a good personality or some other kind of skills or traits that came in helpful (Look at Gwen in ‘Merlin,’ not only is she a lovely person, her blacksmithing skills have aided the plot several times.) but she doesn’t. She’s just a whiny little brat with no skills, talents or even intelligence of her own.
About half of the series is like this.
The huge panels of Zero and Ichi saying ‘we’ll protect you!’ get very annoying very fast. Even after she’s given the magic lollipop she still needs to be saved all the time. She even has to be saved from tripping over or getting a cramp in her leg. How the hell did this girl even survive before these boys showed up?!
Another thing that is really off-putting – Some parts of this manga are just plain disturbing. First of all, there are continuous jokes about Nina having a flat chest. She’s twelve! Her boobs aren’t due to grow in for another two years at least! Are they trying to portray some kind of negative body image into pre-teen girls?
Even worse, in the third chapter a hot, promiscuous girl named Rokka shows up to seduce Ichi with her curves and lay on the fan service. But she’s actually a 5 year old little girl using a transformation spell. That makes it pretty sickening when she’s seen naked in the hot springs chapter.
The whole hot springs episode is like reading something from Love Hina – Nina’s towel slips off, Zero gets an eyeful so of course she whacks him and calls him a pervert. And yet Nina is underage even by Japanese laws! (The age of consent in Japan is 13). Surely I can’t be the only one who sees something wrong with this?!
Thanks to Funimation’s Youtube channel, I also watched all 13 episodes of the anime. Because I have literally nothing better to do with my time. And I must say, I did enjoy the anime more than I did the manga. The main factor was the adorable mascot Zura, a little green thing that is supposedly a seahorse yet looks more like a mini dragon. I don’t care what he’s supposed to be, he’s just so cute! Never underestimate the power of a cute mascot!
The dub voices are pretty good in my opinion. I especially like Monica Rial as Sun, she’s so cute! The anime also bothers to explain Zero and Ichi’s motivation from the very start and has a lot more good comedy, even during the Rokka episode. The ending even left me feeling cheerful, that’s always a good thing!
Yet it still has many of the same problems as the manga. The ‘protect me’ crap comes in even earlier and continues relentlessly. They do show that Nina is nice, but it isn’t mentioned until the third episode and is barely brought up again. Yet by the unexpected ‘save the world’ finale, we’re supposed to believe that Nina is just the most special and nice person in the world! She’s also stepping dangerously close to Mary Sue territory by suddenly gaining magic powers out of nowhere. In fact, I did a Mare Sue litmus test on Nina and she just scraped a pass!
When Nina finally does something for herself instead of relying on others, it just happens suddenly instead of developing throughout the series. If she had been that way all along or we got to see her character developing properly, then maybe I would have actually enjoyed watching.
There are a few moments in the anime when Nina has actual character depth, but most of the time I just want to throw hot tea in her face. The parts of the series that I really enjoyed were stories that didn’t feature Nina at all. The manga has a bonus story called ‘Medical Magical’ about a young witch training in healing magic. Not only does this story have better fan service (within the first 2 pages!) but it has a main female character who actually does something and goes through a dilemma that doesn’t involve cute boys. The backstory of Sun and Forte was 22 minuets of perfection!! It made me cry and want to buy figures of them. Going back to the same old shojo clichés in the next episode was almost painful to watch. Why couldn’t the creator have made a series about the magical world and the interesting characters and stories within it? It would’ve been tonnes better and more successful.
If you’re a fan of Bella Swan, Hollyoaks and cute artwork, this series is for you. Otherwise, watch episode 5 of the anime and give the rest a wide berth.
My verdict – 4/10.