The Big Adventures of Majoko
written by Tomomi Mizuna
Majoko, a witch, is bored, so she tosses her diary into the human world and vows that the first person to open it will be her partner in whatever adventures lie ahead. She was hoping for a hunky guy but, this being a children’s manga, the book is found by Nana, a girl about her own age. Let the fun begin!
The book starts out with a set of simple adventures: Nana and Majoko face down frogs and win a staring contest with some sort of one-eyed worm to get into a treasure cave and find Nana’s lost necklace; Nana and Majoko chase a thief; Nana and Majoko try to boost their GPAs with apples from the “good grade tree.” All are set in a nicely imagined magic land, and while they all have fairly apparent morals (there are no shortcuts to good grades, don’t take things that aren’t yours), they don’t get too heavy. The stories are often quite funny and don’t necessarily take the predictable course. The thief that the girls pursue, for instance, is a charmer who is actually retrieving rainbows that the merchant had stolen from the human world. He scatters the rainbows back in the sky where they belong and leaves the girls with a wink and charming bit of magic. In another episode, a fortuneteller tells the girls they need not be hostages to bad luck—and then is entranced by their horoscope book. The girls even get to participate in a manga-fied version of The Little Mermaid, with a twist that differs from both the movie and the original story.
This book is all about friendship, and we have met kids like Nana and Majoko before. Majoko is cheerfull and self-confident, but she’s not very good at magic, and her spells often backfire, with humorous results. Nana is a bit more by-the-book. She’s a very average kid, but she can be clever and determined when the situation requires it. The girls’ strengths and weaknesses complement each other, and they work together to get out of sticky situations.
The last two chapters of the book take a different and slightly darker turn, when Majoko’s school somehow gets sent into an alternate universe. In this through-the-looking-glass world, faceless students in capes and cowls chase the girls through a school seemingly designed by M.C. Escher and a new peril awaits around every corner. It’s more adventure than horror, though, with some slapstick humor and plenty of quick thinking and teamwork.
This manga reads like a good children’s chapter book. Nana and Majoko are a likeable pair, and the stories take place in a sort of timeless space like the settings of fairy tales. Their adventures are familiar yet not entirely predictable, and the art is charming. With fairly simple layouts and only a few word balloons per page, this manga is an excellent choice for younger readers.-- Brigid Alverson