Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne Volumes 1-7 by by Arina Tanemura (amazon)
There’s something about magical girl series that appeal deeply to my inner 12 year old girl. And since there are only so many times one can reread Sailor Moon, I seek out additional manga to read. Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne packs the triple whammy of being about a magical girl phantom thief who happens to be the reincarnation of Jeanne d’Arc. I’m going to write about all seven volumes, so there are spoilers ahead.
Kusakabe Maron is an ordinary high school student who indulges in the hobby of rhythmic gymnastics. Her best friend is Miyako, the daughter of a police detective. Maron lives alone because her parents are overseas and one day she sees an intriguing looking boy moving into her apartment complex. He’s Nagoya Chiaki. When Maron and Miyako see him for the first time, Maron instantly decides that he’s her type and Miyako develops an instant crush. Maron and Chiaki see each other again when they’re out on their apartment balconies and he leers at her cleavage. She decides that she’ll have nothing to do with him, so she tells Miyako to go ahead and try to go out with him.
Maron has other things on her mind because at night she transforms into Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne, a phantom thief aided by a teeny tiny semi-angel named Finn. Jeanne finds satanic demons in works of art and seals them up into chess pieces. She’s got a transformation sequence and a nifty catchphrase, “To seal the evil born of night the heaven-sent Kaito Jeanne must take fight!” Jeanne is being chased by both Miyako and her father. When Jeanne knows someone is acting strangely because they’ve recently acquired demonic art, she sends a calling card warning that she’s going to appear at night and help herself to their painting. Jeanne seals demons by yelling “Checkmate!” and when the demon is exorcised from a painting a new image appears in its place.
Maron is in many ways the sterotypical shojo heroine. She presents a smiling face to the world when she’s lonely. She’s a little bit ditsy, but she always manages to complete her missions. Maron/Jeanne is so confident in her demon-busting abilities that she finds her night job almost too easy. Suddenly a mysterious boy with a familiar voiceappears and challenges her. He’s Kaito Sinbad, who maintains his air of mystery by hiding his face. He also wears a headband. I’m not sure why, perhaps he’s a fan of Loverboy.
Maron and Chiaki begin to grow closer. She’s always checking her mailbox hoping for a letter from her parents. He starts leaving her notes every day so she doesn’t have to be disappointed when there is no letter for her to pick up. They have the usual misunderstandings you’d expect from a shoujo manga; he has a faux-fiancee, she thinks he’s a player with the ladies and Finn tells Maron that Sinbad’s an agent of Satan. Maron sees Chiaki transform into Sinbad and figures out that he was stalking Jeanne when he asked her out.
The first three volumes of the series are filled with fun art thievery, fluttering ribbons, and romantic confessions. Things take a darker turn and the age rating for the series goes from “Everyone” to “Teen” in volume four. Much is made of Maron’s purity being the source of her powers, and her darkly handsome new history teacher is the reincarnation of an acquaintance from Jeanne d’Arc’s past. A not very compelling sub-plot about the semi-angels is introduced, and the ultimate battle between good and evil is joined.
I’m always a bit bewildered and bemused when manga takes on Judeo-Christian theology. While a project like Saint Oniisan (Jesus and the Buddha as roommates in modern Japan) sounds like it might be endearingly hilarious, reading a wacked-out interpretation of the Book of Genesis in a magical girl shoujo context makes my brain hurt a little bit. In the final volume of the series Maron goes to heaven, meets God, and all is revealed!
Tanemura’s art is full of characters with eyes that take up a third of their faces and her character designs are differentiated mainly by changes in hairstyle. For those that want art with detailed costumes, there’s plenty to look at. While Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne has plenty of magical girl action, there’s something that doesn’t quite gel due to the combination of breezy thievery and religious reference. Most of the characterization in the manga feels like it remains on the surface, but it is hard not to get pulled in by Maron’s relentless enthusiasm and cheerfulness.