Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Le Piège infernal

「まあお互い母親に頭あがれねぇって事で・・・」
『名探偵コナン』

"It just means we both just can't go against our mothers' wishes..."
"Detective Conan"

While Aoyama Goushou's most popular work is still Detective Conan, his other manga are quite fun too. I for example love Yaiba, which is very much like the earlier volumes of Dragon Ball, with a lot focus on adventures and humor. And evil bunnies from outer space and creatures like PollenMan (I suffer from hay fever)and kendou championships and everything. It's not very popular outside Japan though, I think. Aoyama Goushou's other series however, Magic Kaito, has been receiving quite some attention lately however.

Magic Kaito is actually the very first running series by Aoyama, starring a toung magician Kuroba Kaito, who takes over the role of phantom thief Kaitou KID from his father. The series basically starts out as a very light-hearted take on the phantom thief genre as seen in the Arsene Lupin stories, but the formula slowly changes into a more orthodox heist style, with KID pulling of impossible heists. Which is around the time Detective Conan started to get really popular, resulting in the on-hold status of the Magic Kaito series. But KID was never forgotten and because a phantom thief is a natural enemy to a detective, KID was featured in a crossover in the sixteenth volume of the Conan manga. Ever since, KID has been a regular guest in that series, gathering quite some popularity. In fact, many people probably don't even know that KID is technically a crossover character.

Because of the popularity acquired through Conan, Aoyama occasionally draws new Magic Kaito stories. And with occasionally, I mean once in 5 years or something like that. But it's better than nothing. Last year, the first chapter of the Magic Kaito was made into an anime special and I gather that last month, KID had stolen air-time from Conan, resulting in a month of Magic Kaito specials and other KID-related episodes being broadcast instead of regular Conan episodes.

And to top it off this Magic Kaito revival-thingy, Aoyama Goushou wrote a new, two-chapter story of Magic Kaito in August! Phantom Lady no Maki ("The Phantom Lady Chapter") is the first new serialized Magic Kaito story in four years and a fun one too! For people who are sorta up-to-date with the Conan manga, 'Phantom Lady' is a name that should sound familiar, as it was the name of a phantom thief mentioned in the Ryouma story in volume 70. Phantom Lady no Maki is in fact the story that directly precedes the Ryouma story, setting up the events for that story. But I recommend reading the Ryouma story before this Magic Kaito story, as this story kinda spoils some of the mystery and fun in the Ryouma story. 

Phantom Lady no Maki starts with a familiar sight: with people trying to come up with a plan to capture KID. But this time, it's not police inspector Nakamori doing the planning, but something who looks a bit more scary. And probably someone who is not really a friend of the law. Anyway, said person comes up with the wild theory that inspector Nakamori was the first KID and that his daughter Aoko is the second KID and plans to capture both of them to revenge himself for something that happened 18 years ago. Stuff happens, and KID ends up with a knocked-out Aoko with guns pointed at them at the top of the Touto Tower. Cue a flashback that explains what happened between the antagonist, the original KID (Kaito's father) and Phantom Lady, 18 years ago.

Which is awesome. Of course. This story is less of a heist story compared to the previous Magic Kaito stories, but it's still very entertaining as a piece of fanservice, as it ties up some loose threads of plotpoints left in previous (Conan) stories. Phantom Lady no Maki fits in with the other 'fanservice' stories by Aoyama where he shows that everybody in his fictional world is connected one way or another and that parents are awesome (seriously, parents to look up to is something, but it's a bit ridiculous in Conan...), but it feels less... forced here, because of the more light-hearted tone of the Magic Kaito series.

The story does feel a more like a normal Magic Kaito story, with some 'normal' school scenes and over the top, almost slapstick action. Which is what I want in a Magic Kaito story, luckily. The last Magic Kaito story, Dark Night, was horrifyingly dark and didn't fit the the series at all. Even considering the more serious tone of the more recent stories. I'm glad that the more light-hearted tone returned in Phantom Lady no Maki. The only problem these once-in-x-years stories have is that Aoyama doesn't really try to advance the main story of the series (KID trying to find the Pandora Gem, take revenge on his father's killers), resulting in all these side-stories that never really lead anywhere. I understand that Aoyama doesn't want to advance the story with such an irregular schedule, but still, it's sorta because of these stand-alone stories that Magic Kaito stays a series with limited releases, instead of a more regularly serialized series.

Let's just hope that it doesn't take another four years for a new Magic Kaito story. Maybe a year-long hiatus for Conan and Magic Kaito instead of Conan?  Or *gasp* a finale to Conan and then the return of Magic Kaito? Which reminds me, the new Conan is to be released next week...

Original Japanese title(s): 青山剛昌 『まじっく快斗』 「怪盗淑女(ファントムレディ)の巻」 (前編・後編)

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