When one hears the phrase “magical girl,” glittery transformation sequences, picture-perfect friendships, pretty outfits, and cute animal companions spring to mind.
The Line Webtoon comic Apricot Cookie(s)! by Louistrations parodies Japanese magical girl manga and anime tropes, shattering those crystalline figures of beauty and love-ly power forever as the story is created within the traditional parameters of such works.
Its description – “A comedy comic following the life, loves and laundry of Apricot; the only Japanese schoolgirl who can’t transform into a magical girl.”
I first discovered Apricot while exploring the “Comedy” section of Discover, the section of Line Webtoon where anyone may create and post comics. I was intrigued by the cute image and the vibrant style…and I found way more than I was expecting.
A helpful guide for those unfamiliar with the layout of manga panels, and the first sign of what kind of humor to expect.
To the fourth wall: In the name of Apricot Cookie(s)! I will break you! In the introduction to Chapter 1, the reader is thrown into a tutorial given by the Director of Darkness, the man in charge of (Japanese) monster activity, who directly speaks to the reader.
Technology troubles plague even the Dark Dimension…
…hence the alternative to the Director of Darkness’ PowerPoint presentation. Apparently the term “magical girl” is passé.
Salty Director of Darkness is salty.
After the tutorial, the reader is introduced to Apricot, a young Japanese girl who looks suspiciously like the girl who will probably “change the world forever,” and her bird Jacques. After dramatically starting a load of laundry when Jacques poops on her bedsheets, Apricot launches into her morning getting-ready-for-school montage with proper manga-esque flair…
Left: Apricot casually equates “comic book” with “manga,” solving all of the scholarly debates within a single panel. Right: Cute poses quickly turn sexually-charged. Also, so many BOWS.
Apricot is an atypical magical-girl-manga main character in many ways. She overshares information about herself (height, blood type, phone number, the fact that she sometimes tinkles in the shower) as she bathes and dresses herself. She farts, gasps, and immediately tweets that she just farted (LOL). She unintentionally, uncomfortably, and unsuccessfully hits on everyone through her blatant, self-confident displays of sexuality. As a “fake manga” character, she twists tropes and stretches their boundaries to their breaking points, over-doing self-introduction, resorting to fart jokes for comic relief, and eliminating sexuality as subtext in inappropriate PDA.
Toward the middle of Chapter 1, all of the female characters go into nauseating magical girl sequences (due to the sheer number of well-executed and gaudy transformations) in order to antagonize Apricot for lacking the “simple” ability.
Left: Apricot’s best friend Butter Punch transforms to fly Apricot to school. Apricot’s thoughts match the potential thoughts of a viewer watching magical girl transformations a la Sailor Moon. Middle: my favorite magical girl design – the wheelchair-to-mech transformation warms my fangirl heart. Right: Sensei’s kind words change the art design, a common method for establishing the mood in this webcomic.
Apricot cannot lament by gazing out of a window, she doesn’t have the window seat. The comic will not permit it, she has been assigned another desk. Poor Hiroshi. He’s the real victim here.
Other comical plot points and twisting of traditional ideas about magical girls and manga (minor SPOILERS!)
- a “fan service” beach-themed chapter that begins with no A/C (the fan needs servicing)
- shorts are popular in the Dark Dimension – it’s “hot as hell”
- attempts to help an American tourist find the train station leads to an argument about what language the webcomic is in and if “translation” is on
- sounds/noises typically depicted in Japanese kanji
- a character creates a Western-style comic about Apricot, which she ridicules because of the panel flow
- parodies of Japanese games (Kar-Di-Oh with a Pink-Eyes Albino Dragon)
- Apricot attempting a magical girl transformation, vomiting glitter, and ending up naked (as opposed to the symbolism of nudity in traditional transformation displaying the entrance into a purified state and becoming worthy of power)
- Jaques transforming into an incredibly busty woman
- entering into a “mind dojo” to learn the art of silently farting (cue Nausicaä Valley of the Wind)
- horribly-outdated memes of giant crabs
- the Director of Darkness at a nerdy convention
- and so much more…
…and the monsters don’t attack her…
Apricot Cookie(s)! is no ordinary magical girl story. Its combination of satire with traditional tropes, twisted Hero’s Journey, criticisms of Western perceptions, and glittery fabulousness make it a webcomic worth transforming for.
If you would like more information about anime tropes and Japanese anime in general, check out the following books (available at the UMW Simpson Library and at a bookstore near you):
- Anime Explosion! The What? Why? & Wow! of Japanese Animation by Patrick Drazen
- ANIME from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle – Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation by Susan J. Napier
- Anime – A Critical Introduction by Rayna Denison
And be sure to check out the other posts on this website that include magical girls –