Genre: YA superhero
Pairings: f/f/f/f/f/f/f (magical girl…)
Queer Representation: lesbian, bi, ace, trans
Rating: 4 stars
We all have that little place in our hearts that gets filled when we see some overused trope, one that we know and love, used with representation that matters to us. A sizable portion of the queer romance book industry is based on this truth–what is a heterosexual’s tired old cliche is just downright hot when the pairing gets queer, or, in this case, queer, black, and body positive.
Magnifique Noir is, at it’s heart, a retelling of Sailor Moon. The beginning of the book even starts out with the same Usagi-like wake up, disdain of school, being a bad student, etc. Ami and Rei have been melded into one character (smart and kind of bitchy) and a few of the other warriors (senshi under another name) show up later on. The crew has a headquarters, run not by cats but by Golden Blaze (a matronly woman whom I love), but they still have all the same sparkly transformations and school troubles and boy troubles and all that.
Except did I say boy troubles? I meant girl troubles.
Magnifique Noir is gay. Like, Sailor Moon was super queer, don’t get me wrong. Sailor Starlights what? I may or may not have pretended to just flat out be Haruka for years. But in this version, every warrior is somewhere on the flag, and the representation is wonderful. They’re also all women of color, which puts this delightfully illustrated book in a whole different league. Why subvert one trope when you can subvert two, while still paying homage to the greatest anime of all time? Magnifique Noir is a delight from start to finish, full of all the lush color and bubblegum happiness we expect from the magical girl genre.
I had two gripes with the book, which ended up knocking off a star from the otherwise five star rating. The first was the very heavy reliance on the magical girl tropes, specifically, Sailor Moon. While I consider myself a Sailor Moon expert, those, especially younger readers who never had the fortune of DiC morning cartoons and trying to figure out why Haruka and Michiru seemed like really skeevy cousins, will likely find themselves lost in the early fan service of the book. Lawrence does an excellent job updating the nerdiness of the women for millennial audience (YouTube channels, etc.), but a lot of the character work and events are interesting mostly from a ‘OMG I remember this from the TV show / manga,’ not because they play an important role in the narrative.
My second issue ties in with the first, in terms of pacing. The beginning was slow. The author was relying a lot on nostalgia, which I get and indeed, kept me reading, and the feeling of ‘finally, representation,’ but outside of those areas it was hard to get invested in the heroines. The threats didn’t seem substantial or built up enough, and the intros lacked the depth needed to get into the character’s heads.
On the flip side, the illustrations and cover art are gorgeous, and the premise fresh but also comfortable. Fans of Sailor Moon, as well as teens and college aged people looking to see themselves mirrored in their favorite anime tropes will delight in this book.
You can buy Magnifique Noir here.