Action, drama, magical girl
1 Volume (complete)
Ran is constantly having the same dream: floating upside-down above a city. One night, she decides to float down to the city, where’s she’s promptly attacked by ghosts! A larger ghost with legs saves her, but he give her a mission: fight evil spirits until Hallows’ Eve as the new Halloween Pajama!
Ran finds herself needing saving in a dream, and the strange being that saves her, Ter-Ter, dubs her the new Halloween Pajama. She must exorcise the evil spirits alone, as he has cannot. Ran wakes up the next morning with no memory of the incident, but she continues the dream the next night. Then, he drops a truth bomb: his sister was the Halloween Pajama last year, but she died fighting the Witch of Halloween. Ran is shaken by the fact she can die in a dream, but now that she knows Ter-Ter wants revenge, she’s going to fight — as a pumpkinhead in a little black dress with what looks like a cheap scythe. By defeating them, the evil spirits can go to heaven.
Halloween Pajama is an independent work published across several channels, so it lacks much of the refinement of a serialized or professional work. One obvious example is that almost all speech bubbles are rectangles. This collected volume also includes the next chapter previews after each chapter, which is weird. The book appears to be published in chronological order, so that means there’s a side story right in the middle.
Irie has done work as an animator, storyboard artist, and director on anime like both Fullmetal Alchemist series, Soul Eater, and Cowboy Bebop. At one time, he wanted to create a full episode based on a bonus chapter of Halloween Pajama, but it failed to get enough funds. But Halloween Pajama reads like a detailed plan for a full 12-episode anime, with the chapters here being the pivotal episodes. Ran awakens as Halloween Pajama, meets enemies and allies, faces a devastating truth, and then the final climatic battle. There’s even a door left open for a sequel. It’s a magical girl manga through and through.
But as often the problem with magical girl manga, anime adaptations generally have more room to elaborate on the plot and to give characters more development. We are introduced to the Witch in the first chapter, but she, Ter-Ter, and the mob-like ghosts aren’t the only ones in this dream realm. Most of what Ran does involves just swinging her scythe or listening to stories, but more adventures could have played up the mysteries. Julia, for instance, taunts the Witch, but she also has a connection to her. Readers will likely picture the dramatic music and the partially-shadowed faces to make you wonder is Julia an enemy or an ally? Plus, I’m sure Irie and others could have gotten creative with other beings in this in-between world — there’s already a pirate ghost with his daughter. While we don’t know what date Ran became Halloween Pajama, but it’s probably the beginning or middle of the month. So plenty of time for her to go
Halloween Pajama will not be a unique story if you’ve ever read/watched a magical girl story, but it does a nice job of tying everything together. Nothing comes out of left field, and even the origin of Halloween Pajama is explained. (Although I don’t think it explained why the position has a silly name.) The ending will probably remind you most of particularly famous magical girl series; this is especially true since we learn that there’s a lot of unhappiness for those who are connected to this dream realm. The Halloween theme is what gives this collection a unique spin compared others in the genre, but it also has some influence from Soul Eater (girl in black outfit with a scythe who is assisted by a scowling partner).
Since Irie isn’t a mangaka by trade, Halloween Pajama lacks a lot of the normal flairs of one. The less important scenes, like when Ran is at school, are basic sketches, saving his energy for the dream realm. This volume includes a bunch of concept art (include concept chapters) and plenty of bonus art, showcasing his passion for this project. I had a little trouble adjusting to the square dialogue bubbles, as it looks like clipart. Irie has done a lot of layouts for openings in anime, and you will see a lot of dramatic poses and up-close imagery like you would see in one. Ran doesn’t use any Engrish chants to attack, as she just needs to swing to win, so that means no giant text or fancy text artwork. Most of the battles take place on rooftops and city streets, and it looks like a normal fantasy village. So as long as you keep in mind this is a doujin work, so don’t expect normal manga quality.
Honorifics are not used. The teacher addresses Ran (and presumably other students) as “Ms. Jakou”. “Chibi Ghost” is just “Ghost”. “Teru-Teru” (like “Teru-Teru Bouzu”) is “Ter-Ter”. Some dialogue is stilted, like “I promised to Ran” instead of “I promised Ran” or “I made a promise with Ran”. The dialogue includes the full Italian versions when speaking in Italian plus the English translation.
Even though the doujin nature of this release means it’s an abridged version of Ran’s tale, Halloween Pajama is a fun holiday twist on a magical girl story.