The Magical Girl genre is described on Wikipedia as “a subgenre of Japanese fantasy anime and manga which features girls who use magic” (see citation below). While this genre is a very popular amongst Japanese fans, it was hardly ever seen in North American media. The few non-Japanese shows I watched as a kid that are considered part of the Magical Girl genre were Rainbow Brite, She-Ra: Princess of Power, and Jem and the Holograms. Of course, at the time I had no idea they were Magical Girls. They were just awesome sparkly girls who could do cool things! Then a few years later Japanese anime started airing on North American television and that’s when I discovered Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura. Cardcaptor Sakura remains to this day my absolute favourite anime ever! Recently, there have been more North American, and even European shows popping up such as Winx Club, Miraculous Ladybug, and more!
So why am I talking about Magical Girl TV shows on a book blog? The reason is because I recently was recommended Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra by Kevin Panetta and Paulina Ganucheau. It’s a Magical Girl serial comic that was recently collected and published as a graphic novel. The plot is about a group of high school girls who have magical powers granted to them by the goddess Astra. They are sworn to protect the earth from the evil monsters sent by the dark goddess Cimmeria. The leader of the group, Emma/Gemini is infected with dark energy and the rest of the team, Taurus, Aries, and Pisces, need to take out Cimmeria and her minion, Diana, before the dark energy destroys Gemini. This graphic novel is for all the people out there who love Sailor Moon, She-Ra, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Power Rangers, Jem and the Holograms, and Jumberjanes. I love all those things! So… why didn’t I like Zodiac Starforce? I’ll get to it later. First, the things I did like about this book!
Things I liked about this graphic novel:
- The art is spectacular! It’s done in full fantastic colour and the backgrounds and background characters are fully detailed as well. I can’t get over how beautiful the art is.It almost feels like the still images could jump to live in full animation.
- The cast of character is very inclusive. The team members have different ethnicities, body sizes, interests, and sexualities.
- I love the general idea of a magical girl group based on the zodiac. Also, (spoiler alert) I love that the current group of Starforce isn’t the FIRST group. There are flashbacks of a Victorian Zodiac Starforce team and it is amazing! At the end of the book there is a “sketchbook” where the authors talk about their ideas and they went more into detail about the Victorian Starforce members.
- It gave me nostalgia feels. It reminded me so much of the shows I watched as a kid.
Now, the reasons I didn’t love this graphic novel (and I really wanted to love it, I swear):
- I feel like… maybe, it was trying too hard to be inclusive? As if they characters were diverse for the sake of being diverse? The characters just didn’t feel natural to me. This could just be because it was such a fast paced plot that you don’t really get a chance to watch the characters develop. Also, (this leads into my next point) there is no backstory to explain how such a diverse group of people became friends.
- The story seems to start in the middle. I felt lost and disconnected and kept trying to see if I had actually missed something and was actually reading the second book. The characters kept referring to something that happened in the past and I kept wanting more of an origin story. Origin stories are the best part in my opinion! Getting to see how the characters met, got their powers, and learned to use them is always my favourite part. You get a little bit of backstory throughout the dialogue, and at one point I thought were were going to get an epic flashback that would explain everything that happened up to the current plot, but nope. False hope. Even now I’m still trying to figure out if I actually missed the first part of the series by accident.
So, there you have it, Internetland! My review of Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra by Kevin Panetta and Paulina Ganucheau. I gave this graphic novel three out of five stars on Goodreads simply because despite the art being amazing, the story just didn’t seem very well explained. There is a second series coming out in 2018 called Zodiac Starforce: Cries of the Fire Prince which I plan to read once it’s released, and hopefully there is a bit more of a backstory in that one. I want an origin story, gosh darn it!
Magical girl. (2018, January 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 15:13, January 26, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Magical_girl&oldid=820819933