Shadow Lady

Masakazu Katsura

This short series that ran in 1995 stars a young woman who, with the aid of a magic eye-shadow compact from the demon world, transforms into the scantily-clad, mischievous, just-wanna-have-fun, super-thief Shadow Lady. The true ego (Aimee), however, is fragile, shy, self-conscious, and unhappy about her own timidity.

When Aimee first discovered the compact and turned into Shadow Lady, she revelled in the glories of its magic-given self-confidence and sexiness. Drunken with its power, she turned to petty thievery and havoc-wreaking, flying around town and causing traffic accidents and so on. Her sidekick, a very small, good-hearted but perverted demon-boy named Demota, flies around with her and warns her to at least be somewhat careful.

Her archenemy is quickly revealed to be the bungling police department of this near-future city (which, by the way, resembles a comedic version of Gotham City). With characteristic stupidity, the department always comes chasing after her mischief and always fails horribly. (In one truly classic episode, Shadow Lady applies some eye-shadow to the middle-aged male police chief (?), whose clothes morph into a skimpy outfit while his brain melts into that of a sexy young woman --- alas, but his body remains that of a middle-aged male...).

However, one of the policemen is the serious young man Bright, who falls in love with Shadow Lady in his numerous failed attempts to arrest her (somehow his attempts always land him in occupied women's bathing facilities). Aimee in turns falls in love with him, but is devastated that he loves her false alter-ego Shadow Lady, and not her real self. Luckily, she manages to meet him in her street personality; unfortunately, she doesn't believe he could possibly fall in love with her as she is: plain, shy, and boring.

Various adventures happen to Shadow Lady, including a challenge from a girl (Rime? Lime? Rhyme?) who is in love with Bright; said girl rigs herself up in a super-hero techno outfit and sets out to capture the evil Shadow Lady. Shadow Lady, however, outsmarts her rival.

Lately, though, Shadow Lady has fallen into a deeper, darker plot. Demon-world envoys arrive to proclaim that several powerful demon-world items have been smuggled into the human world (does this sound like Yu Yu Hakusho books 3 and 4 yet?). Little Demota, as one of those who helped cause this mishap, is to be executed. But Aimee, desperate to save her small friend, tells them that she will go out and retrieve the stolen items....

The first item has been stolen by a man (Klein) who is a supposed model of society, who actually turns out to be a perverted maniac who is using his item to turn young women into stone. The item, however, turns out to be the holding vessel for a really well-built male demon (Medu) descendant of Medusa. In the ensuing battle between Medu and Shadow Lady, poor foolish Klein dies, Shadow Lady is turned to stone (during a good last shot at Medu), and Medu tells the quaking Demota that really, he doesn't want to do any more harm than necessary --- and so saying, he returns all the (literally) petrified young women to life. Before he leaves, Medu does warn Demota that if all the other items are allowed to lose their magical protections (thus freeing their contents), a demon-world vs. human-world Armaggedon would occur. (Really, doesn't this sound like some early Yu Yu Hakusho?).

Alas, but Bright, arriving at the scene, thinks that Shadow Lady killed the (still-well-respected) Klein and is deeply disturbed and angry. Yet Shadow Lady can't tell him what she's doing, because of her agreement with the demons, and so she, to her immense chagrin, has to leave him angry and doubting.

Later, Aimee confronts him and asks him why he was originally in love with Shadow Lady. He admits he was in love with her power and potential, and a relieved Aimee says, "Oh, so you weren't in love with her as a woman" and walks off. Bright, a moment later, says, "Wait --- I never told Aimee I'm in love with Shadow Lady...".

In any case, the plot thickens as Shadow Lady races to retrieve the other items, as Aimee tries to win Bright's heart, and as Bright plots to force Shadow Lady to admit who she really is ("I'm in love with you ... as a woman! (now stand here and let this water take the makeup off your face so I can see who you are)." The last ploy fails, luckily for Shadow Lady, who escapes.

[I hate to say it, but it looks like Shonen Jump did the classic "Axe" maneuver on the series, forcing the author to finish off the story too fast for things to be done well. Sigh.]

Medu and another powerful demon escape their bounded items, and the latter absorbs the unwilling Medu and attempts to bring a premature Armaggedon to the world. Shadow Lady rushes toward the now stupendously large demon (though while being stoned by people who think she's evil and a murderer) and barely manages to defeat it with the aid of magical container and the theft of the demon's source of power. Battered and worn out, she plunges to what she thinks is her death, but is caught by Bright (who, it looks like, had the help of Lime). Shadow Lady gives him a weak smile and a quip about the irony of a thief being saved by a policeman.

A month passes...

Shadow Lady's reputation was cleared after the incident, yet she has disappeared. The month has brought no word of her. Bright looks discontentedly out the precinct window, surveying the dark city. The other policemen lounge about, bored. But suddenly, the phone rings. The chief answers, and his jaw falls open in outrage. Bright turns and smiles.

Two small shadows are flitting across the bright moon: Shadow Lady is back.

Shadow Lady could have been a very formulaic manga, but somehow it managed to always spring surprises --- just like Shadow Lady herself. As I say so often about these manga, though, I wish the ending had gone a bit better.

There's a reason the author's Video Girl Ai was so popular: the characters are (mostly) real people, with real hopes and dreams and faults. Aside from the continuing and often over-done emphasis on mostly-naked women, this is a story with good, 3-D, sympathetic (and good-looking) characters and a fast-placed, interesting plot. Superb artwork (except for one particular mangled panel I remember). Well done, and worth reading.

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