Maha Magical Manananggal (raykosen) [revel circle]

Merely by the force of its three-ways-contradictory title, this became one of the hits of the Indieket.

Only a Filipino is bound to fully understand, to appreciate, and thus to chuckle at the contradiction: an insane mix of the local, eastern, and western influences that makes this work. Maha, a nice girl with Ilonggo roots, inherits a heirloom as a gift from her mother and grandmother. This heirloom looks unsurprisingly like any one of your usual anime girl brooches, with angel wings and a big cute heart. Immediately the brooch gets some action, and Maha finds herself turning into the newest of a line of good-girl magical body-separator superheroes.

Um, yes.

Ray Magbanua turns everything we’ve all grown up with, on their heads. Your magical girl is Pinoy, for once. This girl is a GOOD manananggal, for once. Your magical girl does NOT want to be a magical girl…well that won’t be the first time, but that’s rare for Pinoy girl heroes. Your magical girl is snarky…well that’s typical for Pinoy heroes, and that’s cool. The art is cutesy without being completely anime-ish, but also without being fully western.

It partly delivers and it partly falls. The printing quality dampens on the presentation of the art, especially in its tones, which is unfortunate. Some of the dialogue rushes too much to fit the given constraints. Occasionally the paneling or the illustrations are confusing, which makes one lose the story pacing. Unless this was initially for a manga contest, I don’t understand the need for this comic to be arranged right-to-left. Ultimately, while humorous and good most of the time, sometimes it feels that the joke of being a magic-girl comic with a twist gets tiresome. Because in the end it’s still another magic-girl story.

But I’m old-er and rather jaded by now. If you’re a younger komiks and/or anime fan, it’s quite the funny and adorable piece that is worth your time. Maha is a nice and likeable little girl with some Visayas spunk, and she’s a really nice manananggal to root for.


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