It’s been almost a decade since Puella Magi Madoka Magica first aired in Japan, a series that would quickly spawn a multimedia magical girl franchise and become hailed by critics as the Neon Genesis Evangelion of the subgenre. In the same year of the original anime’s release, illustrator Hanokage was commissioned by publishing house, Houbusha to adapt it into an accompanying manga series, as well as several other spinoffs. Even without the “from the artist of the Puella Magi Madoka Magica manga” banner on the book’s back cover, Cosmo Familia, Vol. 1 has both so many stylistic and thematic callbacks to Hanokage’s previous work that the comparison is hard not to make.
At its heart, Cosmo Familia is what its title indicates: a family both pushed together and pulled apart by cosmic forces. Our central heroine is the youngest member, Alice Amakawa, whose mother, Raika Amawaka, and her live-in servant, Imori, have been missing for over six years, leaving the young girl to fend for herself, dutifully guarding their large estate in the hopes of her guardians’ miraculous return. She’s not alone, however; the house is plagued by a large gang of fluffy alien critters with a penchant for playful destruction. Known as Cosmofs, the creatures are mysterious in origin and have been in her mother’s care for over two decades.
As much as they keep Alice company — and busy with property damage repairs — their misguided attempts to search for their mistress far and wide have wreaked havoc everywhere, making the Amakawa name synonymous with villainy in the minds of the local population. In this first volume, Alice’s lonely life becomes even more complicated when she’s targeted by not just hostile attention from her own world but also from another, leading to intergalactic — and even time-bending — twists and turns. These heavy sci-fi elements, however, feel very much secondary to the domestic drama that occupies much of the story’s foreground. Cosmo Familia, at least in this early stage in the series, is less about wrestling with close encounters of the third kind or the intricacies of time displacement and more about the ache and anger of a daughter separated from a mother.
This emotional core, along with the recontextualization of the usually unquestionable wholesomeness of magical, female warriors, is familiar territory for Hanokage. Though it’s a level of comfort that results in the plot taking fewer risks, it shows best in the delicate confidence of the artwork.
Because of the specter of Madoka writ large throughout the book, there’s an expectation for the same despairing tone and creeping darkness to lend greater weight to it. But Hanokage’s own original project, like the deceptively cute creatures that pepper the narrative, is much airier. Then again, Madoka took time to lull its audience into a false sense of security before ripping the rug out from underneath them. Hanokage’s follow-up certainly creates the space to expand in the future and its cliffhanger ending — mid-battle — pushes both its heroes and villains into transformative states of a surreal monstrosity that certainly bodes well for Madoka fans.
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Fans of Hanokage's work on the Madoka manga will be at home in Cosmo Familia's world of magical melancholia… and fluffy aliens.