Title: Phantom Thief Jeanne
Author: Arina Tanemura
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 1, $10.99 (it’s a bit thicker than standard volumes since it’s condensing 7 into 5)
Vintage: 1998 by Shueisha, March 2014 by Viz
Genre: Magical girl, romantic comedy
Maron Kusakabe seems like a normal high school girl, but she has a big secret – she’s Phantom Thief Jeanne! Phantom Thief Jeanne is an art thief, sneaking into private collections (well, not so sneaky since she announces her intentions beforehand) to steal paintings. These are no ordinary paintings, however, for a demon resides in each of them, and it’s Maron’s job to seal them away before they devour human hearts. Complicating matters is her best friend and neighbor Miyako, the daughter of a police detective, and she wants to follow in her father’s footsteps. Which means hunting down and capturing the elusive Phantom Thief Jeanne. Assisting Maron in locating these painting is an angel named Finn, and she keeps Maron very busy. Of course, Maron is still a high school girl, which means getting excited over a new classmate – the handsome Chiaki Nagoya, who also happens to live in her building. Though Chiaki is a playboy, he seems to have an interest in Maron, and even asks her to date him. Maron likes him initially, but soon grows weary of his attitude. Which is just as well, since Chiaki has a secret of his own – he’s Phantom Thief Sinbad, Jeanne’s rival. Chiaki is aware of Maron’s secret identity, and is purposefully trying to get closer to her so he can stop her from capturing demons. Or that’s his plan, until he starts developing real feelings for Maron. Feelings that cause him to rescue and assist her. He even notices how lonely she’s been without her parents around, and starts dropping notes into her mail box to cheer her up. Maron is starting to trust Chiaki more, who in turn, as Sinbad, tries to convince her to stop being a Phantom Thief. For lonely Maron, whose role as a Phantom Thief has made her strong and given her purpose, that’s an impossible request. To make matters worse, while fighting a particularly strong demon, Maron discovers Chiaki’s real identity.
I would ask why do they keep publishing Arina Tanemura books, but I actually have a pretty good idea. As completely boring as her books are to me, they’re probably great for younger girls, especially around thirteen to seventeen years old. Her stories are clean (as in very low on sexual content), bubbly cute, with adorable, cheerful female leads. Like Maron, they’re usually around high school age, and deal with standard things like friendship, school life, family life, and cute boys. And there’s usually some form of magical girl theme going on. Phantom Thief Jeanne, however, was previously licensed and published by CMX manga, so I’m not sure why Viz chose to license rescue this rather than something new (and not Arina Tanemura, though clearly she sells since this is the eighth series Viz Media has published). Well, don’t mind me, I’m just bitter that manga I find dreadfully boring gets licensed rather than titles I actually want to buy and read. It would actually make me happy if more young girls started reading manga, even if it is Tanemura manga. Enough of my complaining; let’s talk about this manga, shall we? Phantom Thief Jeanne is the reincarnation of Jeanne d’Arc…and I’m not at all sure what that has to do with anything. She could be Phantom Thief Anybody. There’s nothing in this volume that makes Maron or her thief persona feel remotely like Jeanne d’Arc. Chiaki is Phantom Thief Sinbad, and that’s much more appropriate, even if there’s still no real explanation (aside from giving Chiaki an interesting costume). Obviously they’re not actual thieves, but apart from that, even as someone who banishes demons, that has nothing to do with Jeanne d’Arc. I’m honestly not sure why that’s pointed out in the story at all. She could just be called Phantom Thief Jeanne for any random reason at this point. Whenever a demon is captured, it turns into a white (by Maron) or black (by Chiaki) chess piece, which is one of the more interesting parts of the story. It suggests that God and the Devil are gathering the pieces they need for a battle. Literal pieces in a game of power. Neither Maron nor Chiaki seem very enthusiastic about their roles. Maron gets annoyed at having to go out night after night to ‘steal’ paintings, and Chiaki actively assists Maron at least once. There’s definitely not a sense of oncoming doom, nor does Chiaki appear to be bothered by the fact that he’s helping the Devil. (Though these things will apparently make sense later, if the Wiki entry has steered me correctly; don’t check it yourself unless you’re prepared for serious spoilers.) Now, this is one of Tanemura’s early manga, her second published series, way back in 1998, so the art is not up to her current standard. It’s not terrible, but it’s definitely aged and obviously early in her career. Of course, I’m not a fan of Tanemura’s art style now, so obviously I’m not a fan of its 1998 version. If you’re already a Tanemura fan, you’ll likely enjoy this older work. It has a similar feel to her other series, so it’s definitely more of what her fans already love. If, like me, you haven’t enjoyed her other works (I’ve read volumes in four of her other series), then you’re not likely to enjoy this one either.