Writer / Artist: KaiJu
From a first glance it’s easy to underestimate Mahou Josei Chimaka as just another sparkly manga starring a Black woman in a petticoat, but let me deliver some truth real quick: this story is actually about what happens when Black women break after being forced to carry the world for so long. Because let’s be real here. Black women are tired. We’re tired of feeling invisible growing up, we’re tired of being told how to love, and we’re tired of fighting rape culture for ourselves by ourselves, among many other intersectional crises. Chimaka takes us to that dark place where we whisper to ourselves, “I can’t anymore” and in one triumphant volume reminds us that, “Yes. I can. Because I am goddess damn magical.”
At the beginning of our story we learn that Chimaka Shi, once the powerful magical girl Shimmer Shimmer Sky Patcher Chimaka (I know, just keep reading), was defeated by her evil nemesis in their final battle and has spent her adulthood hiding undercover. All of that changes one day, however, when a mysterious phone call begging for the aid of her magical powers leads Chimaka to confess her past to her best friend, Pippa. The only problem is… Chimaka’s not so sure she can save the world any more.
What makes this story so gorgeous first and foremost is its mature understanding of the multi-faceted nature of love, whether it be platonic, romantic, or for yourself. While many manga dwell on love as a passionate, fluffy sort of emotion, Mahou Josei Chimaka gently asks us to take the next step to consider what boundaries we’re comfortable with as well as how too much pressure can become toxic to our well-being (our “magic,” if you will). Pippa and Chimaka’s relationship also forms the crux of the plot, and while Pippa does her best to encourage Chimaka in her time of frustration and self-deprecation, she never forces her to adopt the sunny, optimistic, and sometimes naive tone stories like these often push on readers. Instead, she meets Chimaka where she is, always giving her friend the option to say “no” to her adventures.
The illustrations for these much-needed lessons are captured in an enchanting visual style that, while obviously playing off of Japanese manga traditions, still retains enough individuality (much like another manga starring a Black woman we adore, Love! Love! Fighting!) so that significant racial markers aren’t lost in favor of a just “dying” a character brown or reducing them to caricatures. If you’re a long time mahou shoujo manga fan like me, you’ll also enjoy the twist on classic tropes like the Non-Human Sidekick and Reincarnation Romance as well as other little Easter eggs for the discerning magical eye.
The series just recently reached its finale, so you can get your #BlackGirlMagic on either in paperback here or in digital form here (and if you fall in love with it like we do, there’s even a cute keychain available to rep Chimaka on the go).