Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne

Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne

imageBy day, Kusakabe Maron is just your average high-schooler with her fair share of problems. But by night she is the infamous Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne – the incarnation of Joan of Arc! She is tasked by God to hunt down paintings possessed by demons and rid them of evil spirits before they do harm to the human world. With the help of the angel-in-training Finn, she leads two separate lives.

Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne is a seven tankobon ‘magical girl’ manga by Arina Tanemura, who is also the manga-ka of I.O.N., a manga series I’ve blogged about previously, alongside many other projects. Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne literally translated as “Heavenly Wind Thief Jeanne”.

imageKusakabe Maron lives alone, with only financial support from her faraway parents. A very cheery girl on the outside, but she hides that fact that she always feels alone and is afraid of letting people get close to her because they might leave her just like her parents. Maron is very different to when she was Jeanne, as her life has shaped her differently, but the angel Finn tells her of her past life, and how she is still doing God’s work even in her current form – by exorcising the demons that are secreting themselves inside beautiful paintings. Since the paintings change after Jeanne defeats the demons inside, the police believe her to be an art thief and see her as a public enemy. Things get even more complicated as Maron’s best friend Miyako is the police chief’s daughter, and she has made it her personal mission to capture Jeanne. And, if that wasn’t enough, Jeanne soon finds herself with vigilante competition in the form of Kaitou Sinbad, who appears to be on the side of the Devil.

As the plot thickens, Maron finds it increasingly difficult to stop her one life from spilling into the other, and she is torn between her feelings and her celestial duties. And when someone so close betrays betrays her, it means danger for her and Jeanne.

imageThe artwork here, because it is another work of Tanemura, is absolutely gorgeous. The detail to each panel is sometimes painfully intricate and complex. The characters all have several different outfits and hairstyles, which makes them more believable as real characters, and is something that I really appreciate (I’ve seen too many mangas where artists have skimped over clothes detail at their peril). Characters eyes, particularly the women, are very large. While not a particularly shocking for a shoujou manga, it is impressive that Tanemura was able to pull off extra-bishoujo eyes on her characters without making them look freakishly bug-eyed. Sometimes they appeared even larger than those of Sailormoon! In a similar vein, all body appear drawn to the same template – tall, thin, with legs like stilts. Again, this isn’t out of the ordinary for magical girl manga, but it is noticeable sometimes in some of Jeanne’s poses. However, when compared to the anime of the same name, the manga puts it to shame in almost every aspect.

imageSurprisingly, some elements of the plot can get quite complicated. When I pick up a magical girl manga, I am not expecting a text-heavy, brain-straining read. In the later volumes, where the origin of Jeanne and Maron are explained with tricky explanations and flashbacks about reincarnations and angels, it’s easy to forget what time-frame you’re currently in and lose track of the current events. The story is loosely based on Christianity and, as a result, there are a lot of inaccuracies when certain aspects wouldn’t ‘fit’ comfortably within the main story. I am not a religious person, so I did enjoy the ideas of Christianity and God featured in this manga for what they were – an interesting story – and didn’t think too much about historical accuracy.

The detail given to the characters, but in design and personality, really make them believable. They all have their faults, but this only makes them more likeable. In the anime they are a little bit two-dimensional, such as Miyako’s assertive and determined characteristics just come across as pushy and bitchy. The same goes for Chiaki, who gets portrayed as an outright lech rather that the cute flirtatiousness he demonstrates in the manga. I understand the differences between making a manga and constructing an anime, much like the difference between writing a book and a film, but it is a shame to see characters you have come to care about have their depth ripped from them just to save time.

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Arina Tanemura is one of my favourite manga-kas. Her artwork is completely captivating, and it has been known to be one of her saving graces when plot lines lose their momentum or a translation becomes really awkward. I will always pick up something written by her because of the guarantees of a beautiful read on a panel-by-panel basis. And this is exactly what you get with Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne.