Since the dawn of Sailor Moon, authors have been coming up with ways to subvert magical girl tropes, to greater and lesser success. Howling Moon is another attempt at an adult magical girl series. But where works like Puella Magi Madoka Magica are smart, dark reworkings of the formula, Howling Moon is … not. So far, Howling Moon is either an interesting philosophical conceit wrapped in panty shots or pseudo-philosophical nonsense wrapped in panty shots. Either way: panty shots!
Childhood friends Kaguya and Mimawari are on a field trip when their bus is attacked by Millennium, an evil organization whose minions dress up as monsters. Himawari is rescued but Kaguya wakes up, in an older body, in Millennium HQ. Nine, the mysterious leader of Millennium, tells Kaguya that the world she knows is a lie. Kaguya is tapped to become the powerful warrior Howling Moon and fight the six Wicked Gods who have seized control of humanity. Only Nine and Millennium stand between humanity and the annihilation of the universe. Kaguya’s greatest enemy may turn out to be Himawari, who winds up fighting on the other side.
There’s the seed of an interesting story in the idea that Himawari’s impulse to save her friend gives her immense destructive power. Can you love something and destroy it at the same time? Is the desire to protect inherently destructive? Meanwhile, Kaguya’s power comes from channeling the urge for obliteration. Having been shown the false bliss and selfishness the Wicked Gods have brought out of humans, she is dead set on complete eradication. But those compelling ideas come in a package of gratuitously revealing costumes, pointless panty shots, naughty tentacles, and lots and lots of cleavage. Hardly a panel goes by without lovingly rendered breasts clad in impossibly clingy shirts. Full nudity is reserved for the chapters in which Kaguya is molested by one of the Wicked Gods, another unnecessary plot development.
The art is good, though the forced perspective—to fit in as many panty shots as possible—gets a little ridiculous. The inks are smooth and the magical girl costumes are outrageously elaborate. Some of the action sequences, especially the transformation scenes, are visually confusing. But they’re not the point. The action scenes exist to show girls fighting while flashing cleavage and panties. Whether the ideas in Howling Moon come to fruition or are cast by the wayside in favor of fanservice remains to be seen. Just because a manga has lots of boobs doesn’t mean it can’t also have ideas.
publisher: Yen Press
story: Kenji Saito
art: Shouji Sato