Phantom Thief Jeanne Volume 1 by Arina Tanemura
Phantom Thief Jeanne is by far my favorite Arina Tanemura series. It is also one of her earlier ones, since it came out in 1998. It might be less polished than her more recent series, but I have always found it amusing because it has a certain magical girl “throw the spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks” approach to plotting that I find amusing. It also has one of the most bonkers ending volumes I’ve experienced in shoujo manga. I already own the full set of this series from the CMX edition that came out in 2005, but this reissue from viz is based on what I assume are the Bunkoban volumes in Japan, so instead of a seven volume set, this edition will be 5 longer length volumes. There’s a new translation, a color page, and a couple extra sketches in the back.
The Jeanne in the title is in real life the ordinary high school student Maron Kusakabe, who is in the rhythmic gymnastics club at her school. At night, she magically transforms into Phantom Thief Jeanne, who fights for the forces of good in the universe by detecting demons hidden inside masterworks of art and exorcising them. The demonic possession will also extend to the owner of the piece of art, leading Maron to have plenty of encounters with oddly acting art collectors. Maron is aided in her holy quest by her helper, the tiny angel Finn. Maron’s phantom thief name is due to the fact that she’s the reincarnation of Joan of Arc, so she is extra skilled at being a art thief warrior for God. As the volume begins, Maron attempts to deflect her friend Miyako’s interest in her secret alter ego and she’s made a bit nervous by Chiaki, the flirty new boy who just moved in next door in her apartment building.
Maron has a frustrating day and heads out for her typical night out phantom thieving. Her best friend Miyako, who’s father is a police detective, is on the scene determined to capture Jeanne. Like any good phantom thief, Jeanne tends to leave warning notes with clues about where she intends to strike. Jeanne has one of the best magical girl introductions, as she proclaims “I am the Phantom Thief Jeanne…sent down before you by God!” It is hard to argue with the power of the Almighty. When she seals the demon inside the painting, she yells “Checkmate!” and a white chess piece appears. The painting changes into a depiction of an angel, and usually the owner of the painting is so happy at the quality of the new work of art and the lack of danger to their immortal soul that they don’t tend to mind Jeanne’s intervention.
Jeanne is bounding along in the night, trailing ribbons when an enemy appears! It is Phantom Thief Sinbad and he announces his intention to challenge her! Maron goes through her regular school activities, fending off Chiaki by day and dealing with Sinbad’s sudden appearance near all the works of art that she’s targeting at night. It is amazing how Sinbad basically looks just like Chiaki but with a headband and a cloth covering the lower half of his face. Sinbad has similar powers as Jeanne, but he can turn captured demons into black chess pieces and has a dark angel helper as a counterpart to Jeanne’s angel Finn. As a shoujo manga heroine, Maron is both exuberant and kind. Chiaki clearly starts developing feelings for her as he spends more time with her. Maron is also desperately lonely, because her parents went away and haven’t been in touch with her. Maron has a great deal of difficulty trusting people, but she starts opening up to Chiaki a little bit. As Jeanne’s missions continue, Sinbad acts as more of a helper than a rival, but he seems very conflicted about it.
The art in Phantom Thief Jeanne is exactly what you would expect from a Tanemura title, but maybe a tiny bit less detailed than her later works. I enjoyed having a chance to read the manga again in a new edition. I thought that the new Shojo Beat translation was a bit more subtle and smooth than the CMX editions. I also preferred the lettering in the Shojo Beat edition. The CMX version tended to use a great deal of variation in font size and font weight to convey emotional aspects of the dialog, and while that can be an interesting approach, when I was reading a few pages from each edition side by side, I thought that the CMX edition was a bit more choppy in terms of reading experience. Since this is a reissue, I almost wish that the edition had been a bit more deluxe, with a few more color pages or some other extras. I did like the new edition very much, I’m not sure I’d recommend that everyone who already has the CMX version rush out and buy it right away but it has been so long since the first edition of Phantom Thief Jeanne came out there’s a whole new group of readers that can experience this title for the first time!