By Arina Tanemura. Released in Japan as “Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne” by Shueisha, serialized in the magazine Ribon. Released in North America by Viz.
There are spoilers here, FYI for those who want to avoid them.
I’d mentioned in previous reviews of this title that it’s a standard magical girl series with a core of darkness. Of course, that applies to most magical girl series, to a greater or lesser degree – Madoka Magica did not invent the genre, they only removed the optimism. Jeanne’s background as a parentless child has been a core of the series, and we’ve also seen how difficult it is for her and Chiaki to trust each other given they’re on opposite sides. This new volume takes us even further down the rabbit hole, giving us dead, sexual assault, and a shocking plot twist that pretty much alters everything we’ve seen to this point.
What seems to be the big event of this volume happens with the arrival of a new teacher, Hijiri. He’s the one who saw Maron at the end of the last volume, and he’s not afraid to take advantage of that. He also seems to know far more about what Maron is doing as Jeanne regardless of whether he saw her or not. This culminates in a fight over the next victim, an isolated dying boy whose demon is the only thing keeping him alive. The boy, Zen, naturally falls for Jeanne (we still have to obey the rules of the genre here) and Maron is desperate to find a way to keep him alive and still not have the evil consume him. This is not helped by Sinbad, who, having had something explained to him offscreen by his magical familiar (we conveniently don’t hear it) is more determined to stop Jeanne than ever.
The aftermath of what happens devastates Jeanne and she’s clearly unwilling to discuss it with Chiaki. This is exactly what Hijiri wanted, as he turns out to be a figure from her past… no, not Maron’s past, Jeanne’s past as Joan of Arc. This culminates in the most disturbing scene in the volume, even worse than the cliffhanger, where Hijiri attempts to rape Maron in order to seal off her powers (which are said to be only due to her virginity). This scene goes on for quite some time, and I’d actually put a trigger warning on the volume for those who want advance knowledge. Unfortunately, while Hijiri does get beaten up and stopped, he does not leave the plot or Maron’s life, which is rather annoying.
Finally, everything seems to be resolving. Chiaki doesn’t outright say he loves Maron, but he comes close. They go on what is clearly a date, even if it’s because he promises to “tell Maron everything” – in fact, it’s such a date that Miyako, who was spying on them, flees the scene, finding herself more devastated that she’s not the closest one to Maron right now than that Chiaki is in love with someone else. Unfortunately, Chiaki then tells Maron something that she absolutely does not believe – so much so that she returns to her apartment just to verify it’s not true. But it is true – Jeanne has not been collecting chess pieces for good, but for evil! The revelation comes out of nowhere to a certain degree – not that Maron is being deceived, but who’s doing the deceiving, as Finn has been mostly an annoying ditzy mascot to this point. But there was some signposting, and we still have 2/5 of the series to go, so I’m sure we’ll see what’s going on.
There’s a lot of Arina Tanemura out there thanks to Viz, and I’ve never really been grabbed by much of it. This is the exception. Phantom Thief Jeanne is shaping up to be her best work, though, with thrills, romance, humor (Maron’s obsession with getting swine flu here is highly amusing) and a very deep plot. It’s a fantastic license rescue, and I can’t wait for the next volume.