Shugo Chara! Vol. 2 (Del Rey)

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shugo2-header.jpgThe creators behind DearS and Rozen Maiden continue their bizarre new magical girl series.

 

 

207 pgs. B&W; $10.95

(W / A: Peach-Pit)

 

Since Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura gained worldwide popularity, the "magical girl" manga genre has been done to death. Shugo Chara!, the latest series by the female artist duo known as "Peach-Pit," strives to be a fun and empowering tale about elementary school students who discover their full potential, but ends up being deeply bizarre and confusing.

 

The story centers around Amu Hinamori, a cute yet socially awkward schoolgirl who discovers that she possesses three "Guardian Characters"—weird, super-deformed little people who hatch out of eggs that Amu wears on her belt. Each tiny "Guardian Character" represents an aspect of Amu's personality that she's too shy, immature, or inhibited to reveal to the world. So, in a sense, they're a subdivided, subliminal version of her future self, made manifest. And wearing little poofy hats.

 

The cover to Shugo Chara Vol. 2. Click thumbnail for a larger image.By "Character Changing" with her "Guardian Characters" in dramatic, two-page splash panels, Amu magically gains a new, cheerleader-like outfit, a giant weapon (which changes depending upon which character she's merged with), and a new personality. She uses her newfound-and temporary-abilities to fight against Easter, an evil organization hell-bent on destroying other children's unborn "Character Eggs" (read: "hopes and dreams"). Naturally, Amu is not alone in her quest, or her abilities. No, there's a whole gang of nondescript, essentially indistinguishable kids who also have "Guardian Characters," and presumably, they're all going to need a lot of psychotherapy someday.

 

The book's only interesting-and rather Freudian-moment arrives when Amu encounters Ikuto, a mysteriously handsome older boy who plays the violin. (Boys Over Flowers' Rui Hanazawa, anyone?) Ikuto possesses the "Dumpty Key," which supposedly fits in Amu's "Humpty Lock," but she's "too young," and...well, I think we can all see where they're going with this, and I think it's pretty safe to say it isn't G-rated. Ahem.

 

That said, even if you're a fan of the "magical girl" genre, there's nothing new and exciting about Shugo Chara! The whole premise feels stale, and it lacks the dark, occult undertones that give good "magical girl" series their true power. Here, the "transformation" sequences seem like an excuse to dress Amu and her friends in cute outfits, not an essential plot element. And speaking of plot, nothing real or urgent ever seems to be at stake, even when Amu's "Character Eggs" are confiscated by a creepy teacher. It's hard to care about whether or not a girl and her eggs will be reunited, particularly when you know that the eggs contain incredibly irritating, chirpy little sprite-like creatures. Unless you're a "magical girl" fiend, steer well clear. | J. Bowers

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