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This a little book that my daughter spent some of her Christmas "money" on. Actually, she received Amazon vouchers from her grandparents instead of actual money, and she decided that one of the items she wanted was a kid's manga that was on offer as a pre-order.
Aimed at ages 7 and up, this is the real deal. Printed by Udon Entertainemnt (www.mangaforkids.com) in conjunction with Poplar, it is the first of their titles designed to introduce children to Japanese comic books, or manga. As manga is printed and read "back to front" and right to left, the first thing a child who is unfamilar with Japanese publications will notice is that the back cover seems to be printed on the front, an the first page reads, "Whoops! This is the back of the book!" along with a short explantion about what a manga is and how to read it. Also inside the "back" cover is a colour advertisement for publisher's website which has previews of upcoming books, as well as games and such relating to the series they are producing. The advertisement also lists the first editions of the other three titles that they are currently releasing.
Once the child has flipped the book over to the actual "front" of the book, they are treated to a brief message from the mangaka (the artist/writer). Following this is a brief recap on how to follow the panels and pages, and then a table of contents, followed by the chapters themselves. The simple layout and easy to follow instructions were not needed by my daughter, as she has read manga before (mostly off the web, due to a previous lack of children's manga available commercially in English), but her best friend had never read manga before, and found the instructions a snap to understand so that she was happily reading away in mere moments.
Children's manga, or kodomo manga as it is known, is just what one would think it is. It is manga aimed at a younger reading audience, so that themes appropriate for their age are presented. This does not mean dumbed down or thinly plotted stories however. The Big Adventures of Majoko falls into the "magical girl" (mahou shojou) genre, so what we get is a story about a girl with magical powers and her use thereof. The great appeal to this particular story is that while the outgoing Majoko is magical, being a young witch who lives in an alternate reality where magic exisits, her companion Nana is not.
Nana is that girl who could be your own daughter. Looking for a lost item in her messy room, she finds an unfamilar book, opens it, and out pops our young witch, majoko, who takes her on a series of adventures of a lifetime. The two young girls bond and become the best of friends, though not without mishaps along the way. You see, Majoko is but a child, still attending primary magic school, and well, her magic is not quite up to scratch yet. Throw in encounters with mermaids, a werewolf, a thief, and the general goings on at school, stir well with the inexpert magic, and you get a good idea as to the sort of adventures Nana encounters with Majoko in this volume. Life lessons are learned along the way,with strong themes of friendship, acceptance of the differences in others, taking personal responsibility, and the importance of making your own decisions wisely.
The art by mangaka Tomomi Mizuna is quite nice to look at. It is rich in detail, with a lot of texture. This may be aimed at children, but the art here rivals that in my own manga, with no skimping on effort due to the intended (and possibly less critical) market. I picked this up and had a read through, and must say I have also been impresed with the translation effort. This is extremely well done, being free of Engrish entirely, with idiomatic English well expressed as appropriate. The paper is decent quality, as is the cover, so stands up well to being repeatedly thumbed through and re-read by several children until the next volume is on sale. Each chapter is well defined, with the beginning pages in full colour. This makes it easy to take a break from reading as there are natural stopping places not too far apart so that it can be picked back up without trying to recall the tiny details of what previously happened.
My daughter loves to read, but her best friend doesn't, rather sadly associating reading with literacy hour and assigned books that do not interest her. This book has appealed greatly to both girls, however. My daughter sees it as another type of book to enjoy and an extension of her love of anime and all things Japanese. Her best friend sees it as a cool read, with lots of great pictures, and not too much text on one page. My young son also enjoyed the book, though the main characters were girls, but most boys in the target age group would probably appreciate Ninja Baseball Kyuma, one of their other titles, much more.
I have not seen this for sale at our "local" Waterstones, or at Tesco or anywhere else other than Amazon, but the publisher's webpage gives the ISBN number so it is possible to order it. Having said that, it is on Amazon, so it is not hard to get ahold of, and I don't get into Waterstones that often, so I might have missed it being on display. Regardless, it is a nice sized book (192 pages) for the money, and will appeal to most girls, even if they think they do not like to read (or just think they can't read a "big" book).