Phantom Thief Jeanne manga was brought to the English speaking audience in March this year by the fantastic people at Shojobeat, of Viz Media. I was a little slow on the uptake, what with it now being May and I have only just picked it up, but seeing all the gush about the series on Twitter when I saw it sitting on the shelf in Waterstones, well, you know my track record of resistance.
I hope it doesn’t take you two months to obtain a copy for the manga is so beautiful a demon would possess my heart (you’ll see what I did there).
Phantom thief Jeanne, aka Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne, was brought to life by Arina Tanemura in 1998. It follows the story of a magical girl type heroin who steals beautiful paintings that have been possessed by demons with the help of Angel (in training) Fin Fish. The demons devour the hearts of humans who think the paintings beautiful. It seems confusing but makes perfect logic after the first chapter/episode. Humans who have had their hearts devoured are in turn possessed by demons, and start being mean and unlike their character. Jeanne must seal the demons into pins, that for some reason become chess pieces. will this all culminate in a chess match? The reason demons are doing this is because ‘beautiful hearts are the source of God’s power’ and the devil/demon lord wants to destroy God, obviously.
When I first looked at the cover and the first page, I didn’t feel enthused about it (that would explain why it took two months). Jeanne is reminiscent of Usagi/Sailor Moon. The long flowing yellow blonde locks, the shape of the fringe, the costume colour and even the jewelled headpiece. Sailor Moon started fighting crime and finding love in 1992, so it makes sense the popular senshi would have an impact on future magical girls and the mangaka that create them. She was brilliant afterall.
However, the similarities end there. Jeanne has no team (though Phantom thief Sinbad just makes me think Tuxedo Mask), and Usagi and Maron (Jeanne’s high school alter-ego) are as different as strawberries and apples. As are Mamoru and Chiaki (Tuxedo and Sinbad). Maron is a strong young girl, and although there is an obvious depressing back story which will come to light, I think she is a good role model. Usagi was always ‘do it for my friends’ but let’s face it, she was a lazy fool for everything else. Maron works hard, and is a gymnast – and what do you know, Jeanne used gymnastics to attack and evade.
Phantom Thief Jeanne is not just a girly series either, the anime shows a lot of hand to hand combat. Most of the time, this magical girl genre will show the girl getting beat up, maybe manhandled a little to which she can do nothing but shove back, and then throw some magic at the bad guy. Jeanne actually fights, hand to hand, or even with a gymnast ball. The anime tends to give her a magical weapon in the way of a putty like ball that will shape itself around things as and when she needs. In the manga she only has her own devices, it even makes a point of saying how carrying physical weapons would be a chore. I am still unsure how I feel about this, I like how Manga Jeanne proves how clever a person can be without tools, but I don’t think any less of the anime for giving her some magical items.
Maron/Jeanne’s talisman, a pretty cross, is ‘kawaii-fied’ for the the Anime. I prefer the Manga version, which, although a more sedate and perhaps ‘dull’ design, looks more mature and important than the sickly sweet Anime one. Fin must power up the talisman before Maron can transform, which I can see will create a problem for the plotline of a future chapter.
The part I respect a lot is that Jeanne is obviously not Maron in a different (shorter) dress and some pretty accessories. She has the same face, but changing her entirely would be silly. Maron’s hair uncurls and lengthens, changing from brunette to blonde. The anime does a nice magical girl change, but Manga book one has only a few close up diagrams to show her talisman powering up, the hair and maybe a glove appearing. It is a nice change for a magical girl anime to use barely 30 seconds as opposed to two full minutes of the episode with the exact same changing routine. However, the pretty fluffy pink wings and whole scene isn’t in the manga, yet it would be boring without it. They made the right call.
Rather than fighting tangible monsters like many series do, Jeanne and Sinbad often have to evade the humans that are unaware of the demons. In the first book and five episodes, the demons have yet to take a corporeal form which would pose any danger; it is the police and Maron’s best friend, Miyako, daughter of the detective, that they have to struggle with each time. Miyako seems to have been ‘dumbed down’ in the Anime, and the police have been made more serious. In the Manga, Jeanne steals the painting via sealing the demon, but it switches to a pretty picture of an angel, in the Anime, she just leaves a white canvas. Of course, this makes her more of a menace in the Anime, giving reason a whole team of detectives would be on Jeanne’s case. But in the manga, Miyako’s dad is a shouto type, think chibi Tanaka in Black Butler. His personality and obeying of Miyako’s bossy nature, remains the same in both.
Both the Manga and Anime are really cute, and I know I will be continuing with both. However, the Manga wins yet again for storyline. The anime is sweet, and each episode is funny, but the character development is much faster in the Manga. Once you read the first one, the anime seems to drag behind a little. I found the same with D-Gray Man, the Anime takes the plot of the chapters, but will switch the timeline and how the characters are involved to make more of a build-up to character revelations; it is frustrating when molehills are made into mountains that take forever to reach the summit.