Review: Magical Boy
Updated: Nov 11, 2020
Winner of a 2020 Prism award in the category of webcomics, Magical Boy is such a breath of fresh air and genuine empathy that it is single handedly helping me through a lot of election anxiety right now. Creator The Kao has created an amazing and endearing piece of work that has artistically developed in leaps and bounds since its launch on the Tapas platform in 2018, and as we seem to be closing in on its ending it's become a visually crisp and engaging character driven piece of work.
Magical Boy follows Max, a transman going to highschool and navigating his various anxieties as he deals with the day to day drama of being a teenager as well as figuring how to come out to his parents, working through the constant misgenderings and ignorance of classmates, and now the sudden pressure of learning that he is most recent in a bloodline of magical girls.
While Max has to deal with his mothers overbearing disregard for his identity in the face of the tradition of being a magical girl, Max does have the support of his best friend Jen:
His incredibly loving father who is actively learning about what it means to be transgender so as to best support his son:
Sean, the tough boy at school who loves cute things:
And more as the story progresses. The Kao creates an incredibly engaging and expanding cast of characters and representations, each with their own arcs as they support Max and follow their own passions. That includes the pompous guardian cat, Walnut, who at first does nothing for Max's confidence but then starts to work with him a bit on changing the usual traditions. Magical Boy plays with a lot of the usual tropes we see in this genre and just has a ton of fun.
It balances that fun with tackling a lot of relevant issues dealing with identity and acceptance, especially as Max is forced unfortunately to initially adhere to the traditional style of magical clothing and such.
The immediate negative effects cascading with the judgements of others, and Max constantly dealing with the stress that that involves.
As the story progresses though, Max's sense of identity as a man starts to influence the magic itself as his costume starts to change with each transformation. Aspects of Max's struggle with his confidence and sense of self start to tie in with the larger mythology that The Kao starts to develop regarding the battle between the opposing light and dark forces of the world and their connections to people's emotions.
On a quick note, I also just want to say that I live for the facial expressions in this series.
Absolutely live for them.
I also live for the absolutely amazing sense of empathetic connection The Kao can create between their audience and the characters. Every pain and triumph resonates as our characters work through every messy emotion as they continue to grow and develop.
Magical Boy offers a fun and unique take on a familiar type of story while offering a genuine insight into the lives and emotions of people just struggling to be accepted and loved. It's a story with giant monsters and talking cats and a story about the family we're born with and the family we make. It's just a really damn good story, and the kind of story we need more of these days.
So please, do yourself a favor and check out the series while it's free online. I hope a print edition will be available eventually, as this would be an amazing book for libraries and schools to stock.