A Magical Girl Retires

Read an Excerpt From Park Seolyeon’s A Magical Girl Retires

We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from A Magical Girl Retires by Park Seolyeon, translated from Korean by Anton Hur—an ode to magical girl manga out now from HarperVia.

Twenty-nine, depressed, and drowning in credit card debt after losing her job during the pandemic, a millennial woman decides to end her troubles by jumping off Seoul’s Mapo Bridge.
But her suicide attempt is interrupted by a girl dressed all in white—her guardian angel. Ah Roa is a clairvoyant magical girl on a mission to find the greatest magical girl of all time. And our protagonist just may be that special someone.

But the young woman’s initial excitement turns to frustration when she learns being a magical girl in real life is much different than how it’s portrayed in stories. It isn’t just destiny—it’s work. Magical girls go to job fairs, join trade unions, attend classes. And for this magical girl there are no special powers and no great perks, and despite being magical, she still battles with low self-esteem. Her magic wand… is a credit card—which she must use to defeat a terrifying threat that isn’t a monster or an intergalactic war. It’s global climate change. Because magical girls need to think about sustainability, too.

“The job with the lowest barrier to entry is bounty hunter. I also worked in the hunter guild before I moved to the union.”

She pointed to a large booth located near the entrance. It was for the bounty hunters. Some people posed with cardboard cutouts of the more popular hunters. Fascinating. So magical girls aren’t always motivated by selfless ideals like they make it seem on the news. It was the first time I realized being a magical girl could involve making money, which gave me a strange feeling.

“But, Roa, isn’t your ability unrelated to fighting?”

“Believe me, it’s harder to find the people on wanted posters than it is to beat them down.” Roa smiled and held out a fist. “Besides, I’m very handy in a fight. It’s not like I need magic to fight a nonmagic person, convenient as that might be.”

I nodded; the confidence and speed with which this fist was presented to me made me think she was onto something.

* * *

The next booth she pointed out happened to be right across from the bodyguard agency booth, one that proclaimed to be against the privatization of magical girls. Roa noticed I was looking in that direction and turned me away from them.

“That’s a religious organization.”

“Are they dangerous?”

“We can’t say for certain, but surely making magical girls into gods isn’t healthy either. Being a magical girl is like having a rare license or certification. Can you imagine worshipping a lawyer or a florist?”

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A Magical Girl Retires
A Magical Girl Retires

A Magical Girl Retires

Park Seolyeon

That made sense. I nodded.

“Aside from the religiousness, their positions aren’t that different from the union. They think magical girls should use their power for the community and not just individuals, that kind of thing. Our talents aren’t earned through effort, after all.”

My nodding slowed to a stop. If we didn’t earn talent through effort, didn’t that make us different from normal licensed and certified professions…? Just as I was thinking this, the magical girl cram school caught my eye.

“Then what do they teach at that school there?” I asked.

“How to realize your powers and use your abilities, I suppose. I don’t really know, actually,” Roa said. “There’s someone at the union who teaches there. Apparently, they’re not the kind of school that tells people becoming a magical girl is a matter of effort to rip girls off. You have to take an entrance test to gauge your potential, and if you aren’t up to par, they reject you. Or, if you’re really determined to work in this sphere, they encourage you to become an agent.”

“Shouldn’t I take classes there or something?”

But then I thought of tuition fees. Roa seemed to think I already had the potential to be a great—nay, the greatest—magical girl and that I could potentially do more with my abilities. This time, Roa didn’t merely smile but burst into actual laughter.

“Sure, sparrows can teach pigeons and eagles how to fly if they really have no idea how.”

I didn’t get what was so funny and my feelings were a little hurt. Roa was still wiping away tears as she continued to speak.

“But the Pegasus and dragons have nothing to learn from sparrows.”

It sounded like a compliment, but I was still a bit confused about—well, the whole thing. Roa held my hand again and pulled me along.

Excerpt from A Magical Girl Retires by Park Seolyeon, transl. by Anton Hur. Published by HarperVia. Copyright © 2024 HarperCollins.

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