Miriya & Marie
べっぴん魔女ミリヤ＆マリーｆｒｏｍ ＤＩＳＮＥＹおしゃれキャット (Beppin Majo Miriya & Marie from Disney Oshare Cat)
Shoujo – Adventure, fantasy, magical girl
1 Volume (complete)
Miriya is a rich girl, but despite all her luxurious birthday presents, she’d rather have her parents around. Then a cat named Marie suddenly appears and whisks her off to 1910 Paris… so that Miriya can train as a witch?!
So Miriya is celebrating her birthday, but even though she gets some expensive (and impractical) gifts, she’s lonely and misses her mom and dad. So she’s excited to get a phone call, but she doesn’t recognize the voice. Then a white little kitten pops up out of nowhere and introduces herself as Marie the magician. Marie uses her magic to bring Miriya to Paris in 1910. Miriya only gets a brief flying lesson on her flowered broom before meeting a warlock her age named Leon and his mentor Blackey. While he quickly charms her, Miriya soon realizes Leon and Blackey are tricksters who love to show off their magic skills!
Thus Miriya’s training to be a great witch begins.
Miriya & Marie is a full-color manga made up of short, unconnected chapters. The story can go from sitting in Marie’s (also now Miriya’s) house to suddenly being at the ocean. In these various adventures, Marie is usually the one leading the day’s activities whether it’s a lesson or a day of fun. Leon and Blackie always tag along; I’m not sure why since Marie warns Miriya that Leon is her (Miriya’s) rival. Blackie’s contributions all reflect his cat-ness. Miriya’s Japanese upbringing often wins or saves the day over the prankster, narcissistic Leon. Chapters end on a note of friendship and/or morals, and a few (particularly toward the end) feature some audience participation like find-the-differences puzzles.
In case you couldn’t tell, this volume is targeting the tween market. You aren’t supposed to question what language a Japanese girl who doesn’t even know where Paris is is speaking or what happened after bread that only mice can eat rains down on the streets. Answer will probably always be, “It’s magic!!”, but even then there will be plenty of moments that are abrupt, like summoning a random creature to sniff a painting. If you thought that sounds weird, let’s not get into the whale chapter: a lady whale invites the gang to investigate her stomach and doesn’t know she’s pregnant and is about to give birth but baby whale is stuck in a net inside mama’s tummy. Yeah… I think there were other ways to remind readers to not pollute the ocean.
So anyway, Miriya (and Leon/Blackie to a lesser extent) learn to develop their magic as well as get reminders about why it’s important to be nice. As you might expect, this involves a lot of traditionally girl-associated activities like fashion and lots of sparkles. Spells are cast with random shapes and symbols, but magic is pretty limitless in this universe. Audiences also get to see a few different types of creatures who are living their own human and/or witch-like lives, but the focus is always on Miriya helping someone out or being helped. Leon isn’t interfering with Miriya — he’s participating too — but it’s her kindness and strong desire that pushes her to succeed.
But she couldn’t do this without the support of Marie. Unlike most partners of witches and other magical girls, Marie (as well as Blackie) can do magic. Not just a few tricks but spells like creating jewels and such. So it is a bit odd that a random (but cute) Disney cat would star in a story like this. After all, the Cheshire Cat would be a more annoying teacher but a more natural fit. Marie I think is one of those Disney characters that Japan in particular fawned over, so perhaps that’s why Disney and/or Maya came up with this idea. Again, it seems completely out of left field that Marie is actually a magician who trains magic-inclined humans, and honestly, it could have been a completely new cat and not Marie. At the same time, Disney has come up with weird crossovers/alternate universes with even some of its main characters (like villains’ teenage kids), so it is really that strange?
So this is a very light series, the kind of book someone might first use to introduce kids to read “backward” in hopes they’ll become interested in the manga genre as a whole. And it does okay at that. I think it would have been a stronger story if we could have seen more of Miriya training instead of suddenly coming up with random spells, and trying to include a love story here falls flat. The fact Miriya comes from the future is heavily downplayed as is the 1910s setting (which becomes 1912 by the end, as the story takes place over two years).
What might make this a better intro-to-manga title than most is the fact it’s a full-color volume. There are other Disney manga that are in color, but most of those were first released in a partial-story comic form before being collected in a full book. So for younger readers who need/like that vibrance, Miriya & Marie provides that. Lots of pinks and purples in particular dazzle the pages as Miriya dresses up in both Parisian and Japanese fashion. Leon, meanwhile, combines the Final Fantasy hero hairstyle with the punk look, which again, is perfect for 1910 Paris. (Sarcasm, of course.) Still, no matter how old you are, you may enjoy looking for Hidden Mickeys.
That’s not to say the art doesn’t have its weaknesses. At times, MAYA’s art seems torn between the cheerful, traditional shoujo style and something more stylized like Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt crossed with Shugo Chara! Miriya’s eyes tend to lose and gain sparks of light and change thickness. Miriya and Leon tend to be in some stiff angles. But Maya does include some traditional anime/manga-style flourishes like sweatdrops or streams of tears, but she does so in such a way that it doesn’t seem too unnatural for audiences unfamiliar with the manga style. It’s a nice blend of Eastern and Western comics. That is helped by the Japanese sound effects often having a bit of transparency to them or relying on the color white so they don’t dominate as much as they otherwise would. The manga also breaks the fourth wall a few times, particularly toward the end. Which is also where the puzzles are, so maybe the author decided to do whatever she wanted toward the finish.
No honorifics are used. Sound effects are kept in Japanese with English equivalents next to it in the same color. In one chapter, there’s a footnote noting that “fanshee” is Miriya’s way of saying “fancy” — was she saying it in English in the original Japanese perhaps? Marie also tells Miriya she can call her “Madame Marie”, but this is only used again at the end. Not sure if Miriya addressed her with an honorific in the Japanese version or not.
Miriya & Marie is going to have a limited audience because of its random, kid-centered episodes, but at least it gets points for its full-color nature and a unique use of a lesser known Disney character.
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