Magilumiere Magical Girls Inc. Volume 1: Execute Operation



Counter to how perception may be formed in the West, a lot of bigger licenses are determined by commercial or social success in Japan. Magilumiere is just one example of that, having placed third in the 2022 batch of nominees for the Next Manga Award (web category). For example, the top three for print in 2022 were: Medalist, Witch Watch, and Akane Banashi. For web it’s: Smoking Behind The Supermarket With You, You and I are Polar Opposites, and Magilumiere Magical Girls Inc. We have all of these titles in English (though Polar Opposites is not yet released), so it’s hardly a question of if these series are good, but how good they are. The answer with Magilumiere Magical Girls Inc. volume 1 (that’s a mouthful)? Pretty solid, I’d say.

I think the majority of the allure of Magilumiere through this first volume is the effective marriage of magical girl and corporate bureaucracy. That’s not to say that magic in and of itself is a focus in Magilumiere though. In fact, I might even say it’s quite the opposite. It’s a trivial aspect that only serves as a unique extension of the corporate world- and I think that’s a very good thing. Series that focus on the integration of magic with other aspects are a dime a dozen, but works that focus on the integration on the world of corporate business are not. By simply flipping the direction of the arrow, Sekka Iwata has found a totally unique avenue to explore with their manga, which they immediately make use of. The idea of magic and being a magical girl is central to main character Kana Sakuragi’s personal development, but it’s always through that bureaucratic lens. She becomes a magical girl because she’s so good at memorizing, not because she has the flair or natural talent of her superior Hitomi Koshigaya. It’s all very well thought out and serves to really express some of the challenges that get rather subtly explored in the first volume.

Bureaucracy is a fickle thing that poses a great challenge for Kana. She struggled greatly to find employment post-graduation, having trouble to find a way to effectively communicate in a manner that the corporate world desires. In that sense, it’s a very relatable opening hook for younger readers entering the workforce where corporate-speak is exhausting and interviewers are, well, just sort of making life hell for anyone. Rather than dwell on the negative (much like this volume), it’s better to focus on the positive that shows how Kana ends up landing her job as a magical girl. It’s not through “traditional” channels, it’s not through an interview a la big business, it is through showing off her skills that so many before had ignored. And I personally find that a very satisfying way to rope Kana into becoming a Magical Girl. To that end, the whole volume is really about the idea of “unconventional” talent. Finding people that excel at things in ways you might not expect or assume, but nonetheless proving their value both as employee and individual.

And there’s really a lot of that sort of stuff to say about the entirety of Magilumiere as a startup company. Their entire workforce is composed of unconventional staffers, but is undeniably a valuable and irreplaceable group of individuals that has a much more family-oriented dynamic. And largely speaking, that comes from the fact that they’re all corporate outcasts that couldn’t find ways to survive in the industry at large. Magilumiere Magical Girls Inc. volume 1 does a lot of setup with that idea and has me very excited for how they explore the team behind Magilumiere against the backdrop of a much harsher corporate world.

Though business is only half of this story, so let’s talk about magic! Magilumiere Magical Girls Inc. volume 1 does quite a bit to setup both understanding and expectations of magic in the series. Quickly we find out how technical it is through Koshigaya’s cold open in the volume, but soon after we also see Kana’s interaction with it. Together, the pair of magical engagements tells readers that “magic” is an intensely abstracted and technical process that’s meant to fall very much in line with business. Because of that, you won’t be seeing anything too crazy or special with Magilumiere to that end, but I think that’s all the better for the series personally. The focus was never to be on magic, so by removing the reader’s investment in something by making it more monotonous and technical they’re able to ensure that focus remains where they want it to be.

Though that doesn’t meant the visuals for magic are bad, but I think that illustrator Yu Aoki could put a bit more into them. My largest gripe comes from the fact that I’m incredibly nitpicky about smaller details, and despite the various changes in magical output and settings, there’s nothing to really express that to the reader visually. Aoki does at the least change the size of the magic circle that’s generated, but there’s nothing to be done about shape, external runes, or anything else. Obviously, it’s not that important considering where the focus of the series lies, but I think it does a disservice to Iwata’s verbal description- in some cases. It’s really odd as Aoki is cognizant of Iwata’s verbal instructions, but isn’t really overly invested in them. For example, Koshigaya’s settings for magical output include terms such as “simplex” and “multiplex”, meaning a single input to variable output. In her first attack, she doesn’t define a multiplex value which means the magic manifests as a single circle. Conversely, with the ice Kai she specifies a multiplex of 5. This makes you think that there should be five circles, but there’s actually six. This means that multiplexed circles are actually a mirror of the simplex, and that multiplexed circles operate at lower power than the simplex. Anyways, geeking out aside, Aoki is at the very least aware of the value in Iwata’s instructions and is able to effectively display those instructions visually, but ultimately does not show interest in going beyond to create more unique visuals for the magic.

And I find that a shame as Aoki’s art otherwise for Magilumiere Magical Girls Inc. volume 1 is very solid. Their panelling is refreshing and engaging, really effectively breaking up monotony and expectations, their character designs are very fun and unique, and they’ve done a really great job with posing through the volume. It’s got a lot of energy and excitement to it, and the humor comes through really quite well. I wouldn’t say that Aoki can quite stand up to some of the work from other mangaka running in Shounen Jump+, but I think they provide more than enough to deserve praise for their work. It’s just that when you do good work like what is shown in this volume, that the weaker aspects end up sticking out a bit more.

So all in all, Magilumiere Magical Girls Inc. volume 1 does remain quite a good first volume. I think its focus on the bureaucratic side of things will surprise a lot of people coming into it, but I think ultimately is the hook that will keep readers engaged. Aoki’s art does far from offend readers as well, not quite fading into the background, but certainly aiming to let Iwata’s vision guide the story as a whole. I do wish Aoki could be a little more brave with their visual work, but all the same I think Iwata’s vision is very strong and well expressed, and because of that has me very interested to see where conflict and development arise from in the next volume!

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