Masaki Hiramatsu / Takashi Tensugi
In some ways, the first volume of this Madoka Magica spin-off series left us in a decidedly unusual position - taken for its standalone merits there was little to be found that would give us cause to recommend reading it, but within the confines of its issues there was enough of a glimmer of promise for us to feel as if it might be headed in the right direction. So, were we right to hold out hope for this second instalment of the series?
In terms of the broader strokes painted by this manga, perhaps. The mainstay of this second volume focus largely upon Kazumi's kidnap by a fellow magical girl who proves not to be a rival, but a girl with a thirst for revenge on account of holding Kazumi's team-mates responsible for her best friend's death, and a desire to make them suffer the death of someone close to them as she has. There are some twists and turns within the confines of this story, but the overall approach is a largely action-oriented one... which is where this series continues to fall apart. Try as it might (and it could be argued that it's problem is that it tries too hard), Kazumi Magica really isn't any good at depicting action, and the whole thing frequently descends into something approaching an indecipherable and poorly illustrated mess. Add in some clumsy dialogue and pacing and the whole thing is deeply unsatisfying - a shame when there are clearly some interesting ideas beneath the surface.
The same can be said for the story arc which immediately follows this one - again, its core concept is a fascinating one which operates in a previously unexplored aspect of the world built by the wider franchise, but its execution and illustration are both left severely lacking. It's a bit like having a delicious meal set before you without the proper utensils to eat it with - you're left either imagining how tasty it might be or delving into it with your bare hands and getting irritatingly messy in the process.
Tidied up, streamlined and fleshed out, Kazumi Magica could probably be something quite impressive, but as it stands there really isn't anything to recommend it to anyone but the hardest of hardcore fans of Madoka Magica who want to soak up every moment from every angle of the show's universe. It's almost the kind of series that would be well-served by an anime adaptation that rips out only the best parts to work from while leaving its messy carcass behind, but without that kind of effort there's far too much going against the series to make it an enjoyable read. With reasonable character designs diminished by its struggles to depict them in action and a story toppled by bad writing, it now seems incredibly unlikely that this series can do anything with its promise. Given how much we really want to like Kazumi Magica and what it offers, that's a tremendous shame.