Wataru Yoshizumi, author of fan favorite Marmalade Boy, wrote manga series Ultra Maniac in 2003. It was popular enough to spawn an anime series and span five volumes. If you are familiar with the anime series, then you are in for a treat since the two have little in common aside from some characters.
Ayu Tateishi, popular middle-schooler in her second year (analogous to 7th grade in the States) finds a distraught Nina Sakura outside of the school. Nina has lost an important item at school, but won’t reveal what it is and runs away. Ayu walks by a bench she recalls Nina sitting at earlier and sees something underneath. It’s a handheld computer of some sort.
When she returns it to Nina, Nina is overcome with joy. This seemingly insignificant act enamored Nina to Ayu, sealing Ayu’s fate. Nina stalks Ayu to be sure, then reveals her secret: Nina is a witch from another dimension studying abroad due to poor studies at home, and what better way to practice than to help Ayu magically every chance she gets whether Ayu wants the help or not?
This was a good series filled with entertaining situational comedy and cute characters, but it was marred by three flaws. First, the cast was too large, which crowded the main character’s development. Second, the characters were weak. Third, the ending was fragmented.
The story telling was solid since Wataru Yoshizumi was a seasoned mangaka (manga artist) by this point. Ultra Maniac was her seventh serialized story. The situational comedy was often funny; the art was adorable. Unfortunately, the story felt thin compared to Marmalade Boy. This was likely due to the simplistic conflicts. After Marmalade Boy, Yoshizumi seemed to split her story telling drives into light comedy and drama. Ultra Maniac was a light comedy, while Marmalade Boy was a better blend of both.
A story about an inept magical girl who finds new ways each month to mess up her best friend’s life can become formulaic. It certainly wasn’t strong enough to balance three romantic couples, a coming of age story arc, and a bevy of side characters. Yoshizumi complained a bit in her author notes about the differences made to the anime series, but I feel that despite the anime series’ cliche treatment of magical girls, they understood that the story was about Nina, not Ayu. Yoshizumi could have strengthened her dual main character approach by having less side characters.
As for the ending, perhaps introducing yet another character was too much to throw in the mix. Each new character took time away from Nina’s story, and her story was already thin. The truth about Nina’s academic capabilities was sprung on us without enough foreshadowing and felt more like a gimmick for ratings than an organic part of the story.
Fortunately, the story tied up nicely in the epilogue, and despite its flaws it was an enjoyable manga. If you’re in the mood for a story with more comedy than romance, give Ultra Maniac a read.
Release Date: July 5, 2005 – March 7, 2006 (United States)
ISBNs: vol.1 1-59116-917-8
Publisher: Viz Media
Original Title: ウルトラマニアック (Urutora Maniakku)