Sabrina the Teenage Witch has seen more than her fair share of adaptations over the years. She’s been a high school girl, a Charm School kid, a witch queen and a veritable hometown horror. Sabrina has been many different things, but the one thing she’s always been is hellspawn. That’s right, Archie’s oh-so-innocent witch friend from out of town is a good old-fashioned devil worshiper.
Because of her kid-friendly bent, few have ever questioned the source of Sabrina’s abilities. But the most recent reboot, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, leans hard into what should have been obvious all along: witches are into some dark business. This casts all of Sabrina’s previous incarnations in a different light, as Chilling Adventures Sabrina’s origins aren’t all that different from the rest. Yes, every Sabrina dances with the darkness, from the 1996 sitcom to the 2013 animated series. But, there is an exception hidden in one very surprising place: an early 2000s manga.
Before Chilling Adventures made Sabrina the literal Queen of Hell, the franchise always held hints as to what the source of her powers are. Most adaptations leave the explanation at “dad was a warlock, mom was a human,” but the life Sabrina leads always hints at something darker. From Aunt Hilda’s exclamations of “Great Beelzebub!” in the original comics to the Spellmans owning a “Spooky Jar” possessed by a demonic entity in the 1999 animated series to every other witch Sabrina meets in the Gravestone Heights comic series – including her aunts – being inherently evil as part of their culture…Sabrina’s everyday life is casually sinister, skirting around the truth of what she and her family are. But, the whole premise of Sabrina the Teenage Witch is that Sabrina is an outlier in the witch world. Not just because she wants to live as a human, but also because she chooses to be good and use her powers for good. But that doesn’t mean her powers come from a good place.
The only Sabrina adaptation to flip the script on this is 2003’s “manga” adaptation of the series, Sabrina: The Magic Within. The series ran for 42 issues and took the franchise in an interesting and oft-underappreciated direction. Worldbuilding and continuity took center stage, naturally revealing more about Sabrina herself than any other comedy-focused adaptation ever had. Sabrina’s origin is largely the same, but the world she lives in isn’t. In the series, Sabrina divides her time between her two worlds literally, attending high school in the Mortal Realm by day and Charm School in the Magic Realm at night. The Magic Realm is home to all sorts of creatures, living domestic lives similar to their human counterparts. The main difference is magic, except the source of it in Magic Within is surprisingly clear-cut.
Fitting for a manga, the powers of the “Magifolk” stem from the Mana Tree at the center of the Magic Realm. A world tree of sorts, as long as it lives, magic continues to flourish in the realm. Damage to the tree means that everyone’s abilities take a hit, and it is the Queen of the Realm’s duty to protect the tree at all costs. The wilting of the Mana Tree is actually a major plot thread in Magic Within, resulting in a tooth-and-nail fight for the life of what so deeply defines everyone in the Magic Realm. And, while no one knows how or why the Mana Tree grew, it is absolutely a much less sinister power source than the depths of Hell. Magic Within’s Sabrina draws her power from the tree and, though she does eventually dabble with dark forces for a bit, even those are nowhere close to communing with Satan himself.
Though few think of Sabrina the Teenage Witch as a servant of hell, even fewer think of her as a Mana wielding Magi-Person. Catching on to her infernal leanings pre-Chilling Adventures was always a bit of a dig, but Sabrina’s manga escapades went largely unnoticed in their time and after. The series had a solid – if quiet – run, receiving graphic novel reprints and a digital release as the years went on, but it is largely overshadowed by other Sabrina adaptations. Magic Within stands out for many reasons, but should especially be recognized for having the only version of Sabrina that is inherently good, at least power-wise.
Sabrina's always had a tad of the dark side, with one unique, manga-inspired exception.