Saturday, April 13, 2013

DaWaRou Posts: Sabrina the Teenage Witch, The Magic Within volume 1

Hello all! It's been a while since my last post and for that I'm sorry. Now at this point I should've had my School Days/Harem post AND my Ranma 1/2 post up but...this'll have to suffice instead. Ladies and gents, I'm John Cortez and this is my seventeenth post for...The Broken Infinite.

Today...we're talking about Witches. Witches have been a part of our culture since we were swimming, stoning and  hanging them back in colonial times though that all seems to be ignored in favor of burning them for...some...reason. The draw of the supernatural is always an irresistible one so naturally many well remembered series of the past and present use Magic and Witchcraft as their focal point. Bewitched, Charmed, Harry Potter, Madoka Magica, Wizards of Waverly Place and others are so wonderfully ingrained within our pop culture that it's hard not to like them and see how their popularity has endured. But above all, there is one Witch who's managed to endure for quite some time and her name is Sabrina Spellman.
Created by writer George Gladir and artist Dan DeCarlo, and first appearing in Archie's Madhouse #22 in October 1962 was the wonderful Witch, Sabrina Spellman who was somewhat of a spinoff of the Archie comics. Sabrina, unlike most Witches in pop culture, is only Half Witch as her mother is a mortal and her father is a Warlock. She lives with her two aunts, Hilda and Zelda who are also Witches and most stories generally center around her using Magic to help someone or her life as a teenager. The series was mostly confined to comic book format until 1970 where it was made into a Filmation cartoon. It lasted for about 4 years. The series wasn't adapted again until 1996. A made-for-TV film called Sabrina the Teenage Witch aired and what followed was a 5 season sitcom, two television movies and a soundtrack back when they'd make a CD for anything relatively popular. The sitcom then spawned another animated series called Sabrina the Animated Series which kind of changed things up a bit with Sabrina still being in middle school but knowing she was a Witch. And that lasted for one season and then there was another shot at it with Sabrina's Secret Life in which she was not only going to mortal school but also practicing Magic at night or something but that's not what we're here to talk about because I rarely talk about Western works. See, somewhere along the line, someone decided to make a Sabrina the Teenage Witch MANGA and that's what we'll be talking about today.

Yeah, because western ideas always translate well to manga format, we've got this and now I've got to talk about it. The first thing I should tell you about this manga is that its' an American manga. Those...rarely work to my knowledge with more experienced manga readers but hey, the younger ones'll say "Look! Vampire Cheerleaders! I wanna read that!" And on another note, YES there is a manga called Vampire Cheerleaders and my thoughts on it as a title alone are rather negative. But let's get on with the review of this.

So...we've got Sabrina and you already know that she's a Witch, no surprises there but now she's going to TWO schools...cause you know, Hilda and Zelda are just wallflowers who can't be bothered to properly teach their niece Magic. Then again, the Weasley's don't teach Ron Magic so why should the Spellmans teach Sabrina? And as if double schooling wasn't bad enough we can't have the Sabrina story without love problems. As usual, Sabrina's crushing on Harvey Kinkle (weird last name) but now a new boy has entered the ring and his name is...Shinji Yagami (why?) a blue haired (why?) warlock from the Magic Realm who's come to the Mortal Realm to woo our teenage Witch. Other characters appear to either help or hinder Sabrina in her mortal melodrama or her Magical mishaps but it seems that there's a threat looming in the background so the question is when will it present itself and is Sabrina ready to face it?

This manga is really pretty episodic. Each chapter its' something different but characters from previous chapters continue to show up in future ones. It's kind of like reading Ranma 1/2 where there's kind of an ongoing plot, but it's done episodically. There are hints though of a much bigger story in the works here though, so props for that. The art...the art is the hardest to get over. While it looks...presentable to a degree, I'm not a big fan of the designs, namely Sabrina's. It just BUGS me because it looks so amateurish and this is supposed to be professional but hopefully with later volumes the design will get better.

You know, I kind of understand WHY people despise anime and manga. It's first of all complicated to read to those new to the medium and if you're going by anime it's hard to really find a series that'll appeal to you. The characters are stereotyped even MORE than they are in western comics and cartoons and it's all just WEIRD! Physics are thrown out the window in favor of over emotional speeches about the powers of love and friendship and the world often revolves to fit the whims of the characters. This though is mainly applied to the anime marketed towards kids here in the United States. Even if things go wrong, it'll all turn out right in the end. Then there's the fanservice and all the tropes that go with it and the fact that the stories involved are rather overly complicated for the sake of absolutely nothing. But I think that in a way all of that contributes to what makes anime so popular in the first place. There's also the fact that Japan gives no fucks about inserting "questionable" material into their series and aiming them at a younger audience. The story lines are often deeper and more complex than what most of us are used to in our Disney or Cartoon Network programming and the shows often treat us like we're smart enough to understand what's going on without having to spell things out.

The problem with incorporating any kind of anime/manga ANYTHING to a Western work is that Westerners just DON'T get Japan and Japanese things the way that Japanese people do. Sabrina the Magic Within is drawn like a manga and has all the over emotional melodrama of a shojo or Magical Girl series. It's written to be like that. It also has this annoying habit of using JAPANESE for the MAGICAL SPELLS! WHEN MOST OF THE CHARACTERS ARE AMERICAN (presumably. Shinji's kind of allowed to get away with it as he DOES have a Japanese first and last name but I can't really imagine that way back when Hilda and Zelda were as young as they look, they were using Japanese for their Magic). WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?! BECAUSE IT'S MANGA OF COURSE! And everyone knows that a manga isn't complete without SOME Japanese in it! I also feel that the story has kind of raised it's stakes by having this big looming mystery threat in the background and in doing so MUST deliver on that end otherwise, I and everyone else reading this will be VERY pissed off. It's not like Sabrina hasn't battled evil before in her previous incarnations.

To the comic's credit, I actually found myself enjoying it. Even if I could see everything coming from a mile away I still rather liked it so it's enjoyable on some level. Check it out if you want but realize what you're getting into. DaWaRou~!

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