To become a magical girl, the contract is simple: you gain superpowers, which you’re expected to use to fight monsters called witches, and in return for your service, you are granted one wish when the contract is sealed. Oriko, for instance, wished to know her purpose in life, and now she has her answer: she must kill a girl who is otherwise fated to become a witch powerful and terrible enough to drown the world in darkness. There are only two problems: first, Oriko can’t find the girl, and second, she’s an innocent whose dire destiny is not her fault. Oriko isn’t sure she can murder an innocent person, and for what? To protect people like the classmates who torment her? Is it worth it to save a world that can be so cruel?

This volume is a prequel to the Puella Magi: Oriko Magica series, offering some of Oriko’s backstory and explaining how she met her associate, Kirika. Oriko’s story eventually goes on to involve the characters of the well-known Puella Magi Madoka Magica series—indeed, fans of that series can probably guess the identity of the girl Oriko plans to assassinate. Like most of the various Puella Magi series, this volume turns the cutesy “magical girl” trope on its head by adding lots of violence and moral complexity. People, both magical and mundane, are murdered in this book. The gore level is fairly low, but that doesn’t mean the deaths don’t have impact: the deceased leave behind grieving friends, and even the killer is stunned and traumatized by their own actions.

The artwork in this volume is slightly more stylized and cartoonish than some of the other Puella Magi installments. It’s less detailed, the backgrounds tend to be plain, and only a few basic screentone patterns are used for shading. The characters are less elegant or delicate, and more emotional, frequently appearing in simplified chibi forms. Their eyes are large even by manga standards, whereas their noses are entirely absent or nothing more than a suggestion. The outfits worn by magical girls in different Puella Magi series range from full-coverage to skimpy-even-for-lingerie. This volume’s characters fall on the modest side—compare Oriko’s dress on the cover to, say, Suzune’s outfit on the cover of Puella Magi Suzune Magica—nor are there any hints of sexual or romantic content in this book. Nope, it’s just violence and ethical quandaries all the way!

This book would be a strange place for an initial entry to the Puella Magi universe. Like other spin-offs, it includes but doesn’t explain key elements of that universe, like witches and grief seeds. A reader new to the franchise could probably understand things well enough, but might not get as much out of the volume as someone who has read other Puella Magi manga. Although the artistic style is very different, fans of Puella Magi: Suzune Magica might be particularly interested in Oriko’s story: like Suzune, Oriko and Kirika grapple with the ethics (and difficulty) of killing other magical girls.

New Testament: Puella Magi Oriko Magica: Sadness Prayer, vol. 1
by Magica Quartet
Art by Mura Kuroe
ISBN: 9780316552578
Yen Press, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: Older Teen

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries

    Reviewer

    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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