Amazing Agent Luna
DeFilippis, Nunzio & Weir, Christina (story); Shiei (art)
OEL Manga – Action, mystery, romance
11 Volumes (complete)
Near the Bruckenstein Embassy in Paris, a boy notices a girl — who seems to disappear! That’s because Luna is no ordinary girl; she’s a genetically engineered secret agent. After her mission to investigate Bruckenstein’s ruler doesn’t go as planned, Luna is given new orders: discover the count’s plot — by attending high school!
Amazing Agent Luna is, sadly, not amazing.
Amazing Agent Luna opens with a guy hoping to make a connection with the pretty girl he notices walking down the street. But she disappears, and it’s then that readers see her in her ninja spy gear. Luna manages to infiltrate the Bruckenstein Embassy and gather some intel about a project called Scion, but the rogue country’s king, Count Heinrich Von Bucken, notices her and tries to quell her escape. Luna flees and tries to blend back into the streets, but she runs right into the guy from before. While she then notices his handsome appearance, she hightails it when she hears Heinrich’s soldiers approaching.
(And no, I don’t know why Heinrich is called a count and yet the ruler.)
Luna is then scolded by The Agency’s directors for not fighting Heinrich. (The Agency is how it’s referred to, as it’s not the CIA or any other known branch.) Her direct superior, Jennifer a.k.a. “Control”, defends Luna in front of them, but she actually agrees with their opinion and also reprimands Luna. After all, Luna was scientifically created just for espionage. Jennifer is taken aback when Luna runs off crying, as an agent — especially one that has been bred and trained — should not have such emotional outbursts. The mellowed psychiatrist Andrew (Andy) warns Jennifer that her heightened emotions could be the result of Luna’s isolation since birth. But he gets his own surprise when he learns he’s being sent out into the field.
Well, more specifically, assisting Jennifer and Luna with a cover story. Heinrich had files on students at the elite Nobel High for children of foreign dignitaries and other high-profile individuals. So Luna is going undercover as a student at Nobel High to find out Heinrich’s connection with the school, and Jennifer and Andrew are playing her parents. It’s there she meets people like the snooty Elizabeth, kind Francesca, and skateboarding outcast Oliver, although the sheltered Luna doesn’t understand much about social interaction. Combined with being the new kid at school, she has a rough couple of days despite becoming friends with Elizabeth and Oliver. But she’s not the new girl for long; there’s somebody else who enrolls at Nobel High: Jonah Von Brucken, rumored bad boy and the son of Luna’s target, Heinrich.
… And also the boy she met in Paris.
According to the authors’ notes, Amazing Agent Luna was supposed to run for 12 volumes and go until Luna’s graduation. Well, 11 certainly is close, right? But, due to a couple of factors, it was supposed to end early at Volume 5. The last chapter there is even called “Epilogue”, but with a bigger ending hook than a Marvel movie. So while the writers were torn between having an open or closed conclusion, they did get their wish to write more about Luna and the gang. This time, they wrote up to Volume 11 assuming it was the last, and it was. So there are three distinct arcs in the story, and the second and third connect heavily to the prequel Amazing Agent Jennifer. It’s recommended that readers either start with Jennifer and then read Luna, or, even better, read Luna to Volume 6 and then jump to Jennifer. At only two volumes, it won’t take long.
But this story is about Luna’s double life at Nobel High. Since Jonah transfers in, spying and staying close to him would be a good way to learn what Heinrich has got planned. But she’s drawn to him — and he to her, although she denies ever having met him in Paris. This mutual attraction upsets Oliver, as he finally has made a friend — one he’s crushing on. Meanwhile, Francesa is sad to see her friendship with deteriorate with Elizabeth by being close to Luna. So much of the opening volumes is Luna adjusting to high school and her inner circle dealing with their changing situations now that Luna has arrived.
As all this is going on, strange things are happening at the school, like a flock of owls who look like the school’s mascot suddenly descending upon the school. Jennifer wants Luna to be the professional, focused agent while Andrew thinks she should be able to freely make friends and be a teenager. The two don’t see eye-to-eye on anything. Even though she was once a secret agent herself, Jennifer is prickly and is not thrilled by this whole situation, especially since she’s usually overruled by Andrew and/or Luna. She’s the deuteragonist, as not only does she push the plot forward as she demands Luna concentrate on her missions, but Jennifer herself undergoes significant character development. It’s no surprise she got a spinoff story since I found her to be the most interesting character in the manga.
Amazing Agent Luna is not your typical spy story, and it’s not just because she’s a (their words, not mine) “test tube baby” who is now attending high school. All that fancy organization stuff and high tech gear you know from fiction? Yeah, it’s not here. Andrew and Jennifer use their real names on the mission instead of getting fake IDs. No one communicates in real-time with Luna on her missions; she tells Jennifer what happens afterwards. Luna doesn’t wield any kind of weapon while she’s working nor any type of special gear outside of her ninja spy suit. So the series lacks the natural coolness that most spy stories have. In addition, for someone who has been trained since birth, she doesn’t have a lot of super skills. She’s good at fighting and manages to take down people with guns, but she faces several opponents at her level. Luna is a good agent, but she doesn’t feel amazing. That’s a shame.
Rather than Luna herself, it’s Luna’s birth and origin that drives much of the story. While she’s supposed to target Heinrich’s plot, she eventually becomes the target. As you might expect, it’s her bonds with others that get her through. What you may not expect is that several people learn her identity — some told, other just figuring things out. Nobel High is full of children of elites, and so I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that so many kids are above-average talents as well. But it’s a combination of being too impressive for their age/skillset and Luna not being impressive enough.
I do keep coming back to Luna, as she’s the star. But unlike a lot of similar “born/trained special agent from a young age” stories, Luna does not start off as unemotional. Jennifer is surprised by Luna’s early emotional outbursts, and yes, Luna takes things literally at the beginning. But she’s immediately attracted to Jonah, and she knows what fun is. Because of this, Luna has less room to grow as a character versus if she was robot-like at first. I liked her first emotional crisis, but her second crisis felt like a sudden switch. Others may disagree, pointing out the significance in Luna’s and Jennifer’s personal development and realigning the story toward a new foe. This also means the story relies more heavily on Amazing Agent Jennifer, although it’s not completely necessary to read. (I recommend it though.) But one of the reasons I did prefer Jennifer is that her emotional conflict is easier to understand, and there’s a more clear change in her from strict, rational agent to being a mother to Luna.
Other characters have their own moments where they seem to flip on a dime. Again, most of the characters are teenagers, and it’s more believable that they make mistakes or change their minds. However, the cast ends up at a decent size, and with all the spy/scientific storylines, there’s less time to make these shifts natural. Like, at times, I wasn’t sure if Heinrich was an actual villain or comedy relief. I think the writers went a little too heavy on trying to emulate the lightness of shoujo when they needed to take a page from shounen manga and up the coolness.
Amazing Agent Luna is read the Japanese way. This OEL manga was created over the course of several years, and we can see Shiei’s art become more Japanese manga-like as time goes by. It’s similar to shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and Totally Spies! Luna herself reminds me of Sakura of Cardcaptor Sakura in appearance, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of her SD stylings were inspired by her. The art just gets more detailed and less of an emulation. But this also means that some of the characters (particularly Luna and Jennifer) end up with a couple of different styles due to the changing artwork. Even in the sample images you can see a difference in Luna from the top image versus the third one. But if it’s one person whose design I did not like, it’s Andrew. He just looks too plain. Even though he seems to have a gray streak in his hair, he doesn’t have much of a manga- or even cartoon-style appearance like most of the others. Shiei is also fond of shoujo-style flowers blooming in scenes. By the end, the series looks really nice, although the early volumes aren’t bad. Just keep in mind that the whole series is much more American than the Japanese take on America, with stuff like high school dances, etc.
I like the idea of Amazing Agent Luna, but the lack of the elite agent-ness in the lead and her already expressive self means that I didn’t get the type of story I wanted out of it.
The prequel Amazing Agent Jennifer is also available from Seven Seas. DeFilippis and Weir have also collaborated on Destiny’s Hand, Dragon Age comics, and more. Shiei has also drawn Aoi House, My Little Pony: The Manga, and others.