Although none of us (that I know of) can boast such powers, we all know how being a magical girl typically works - you find yourself accompanied by some cute critter or other, get kitted out in a suitably eye-catching outfit, figure out an elaborate transformation sequence and head off to stop whatever evil might have manifested itself in your world.
Set against this stereotypical concept of what it is to be a magical girl, Phantom Thief Jeanne rips up the script somewhat by presenting its titular character as, to put it bluntly, a thief. Although her name is notorious for stealing paintings of great beauty via thefts which are always announced in advance, and is a wanted criminal as a result, there is of course a reason other than mere kleptomania behind her behaviour. In short, as outwardly beautiful as these works of art may seem, they are in fact the hiding place of demons seeking to corrupt the painting's human owner so that they can be manipulated to serve the demon in question's will, meaning that stealing and replacing these works is the only way to stop their malicious work.
Needless to say, being a magical girl-cum-burglar isn't a full-time job, and Jeanne's true identity is actually that of a normal high school girl - the energetic Maron Kusakabe, who juggles a life living alone while her parents work abroad with her club activities as a rhythmic gymnast. The irony here is that Maron's best friend Miyako is actually leading the line in the police's efforts to capture Jeanne alongside her detective father, while a newcomer to school actually poses both a personal love interest to Maron as well as a potentially dangerous new rival to Jeanne.
The result of all of these machinations is a heady blend of different elements - lots of super-deformed comedy and slapstick humour surrounding Maron and best friend Miyako as the former dances around her secret identity and finds herself engaged in an intense rivalry for Chiaki's affections, some very typical shoujo romance that emerges from that rivalry, and some surprisingly dark moments surrounding Maron's family and the issues assuaging some of those possessed by the demons that Jeanne is trying to eradicate.
At times these different aspects to the series clash in less than satisfactory ways, with incongruous shifts from comedy to an examination of a touching issue, but for the most part this first volume of Phantom Thief Jeanne manages its elements well - the shifts to super-deformed art style when required help to delineate between any gags (of which there are plenty) and more serious fare, and both sides to the series' personality are pleasing in their own right.
The same can be said of the art itself - at times it threatens to be a little too busy, with backgrounds that detract from what's actually going on, but for the most part its classic shoujo stylings are appealing and its character designs attractive, as you might expect from series author Arina Tanemura given her reputation and history. Viz Media's presentation of this first instalment certainly helps with this, delivering a clean and mostly crisp printed volume that is clear and concise to read and absolutely looks the part - for some reason this first volume isn't available digitally at the time of writing, even though volume two is!
As an opening gambit, Phantom Thief Jeanne's first volume is certainly an interesting one - if you don't enjoy a lot of the typical shoujo trappings inherent to the medium then it probably isn't for you, but its premise and aspects of its delivery mark it out as something different from the norm that looks set to explore its most curious elements further in future volumes. As a magical girl series that's willing to break from some of the norms of the genre while providing some solid comedy and surprisingly powerful emotional moments, it could prove to be worthy of your time if its ideas pique your interest. Besides, where else are you going to see a reincarnation of Jeanne D'Arc as a magical girl?