Thursday, December 23, 2010

Manga Review: Hayate x Blade Omnibus Collection 1 (Volumes 1-3)

 Guts! Glory! Idiots!

Hayashiya Shizuru's Hayate x Blade is filled chock to the brim with all of these, and it is awesome.

Hayate x Blade is a strong example of genre entertainment done correctly. It has all of the bells and whistles of its tournament story-type (excluding any service involving its almost entirely female cast, which makes me want to send flowers to Hayashiya and her editor, given that this is a seinen series- imagine, gym uniforms that look like gym uniforms!) executed with a sharp eye for humor, Hayashiya's trademark screwball goofiness and eau de yuri, and a well-defined, ass-kicking panoply of characters.

Kurogane Hayate's twin sister Nagi has been accepted to the prestigious Tenchi Academy, where young women sword-fight each other in pairs (called "sisters-in-arms") to win points from each other in battles called hoshitori. Each pair is divided into two roles, the earth sword (defensive) and the heaven sword (offensive), and they need to strike the stars worn by their opponents to win the battles, gain points and, after enough wins, move up a rank. (Which means more money per win.) Nagi signed up to be a sword-bearer, but since she's been hospitalized Hayate needs to pretend to be Nagi to keep her place at Tenchi. Since Hayate isn't the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, she outs herself pretty quickly. ("I, Kurogane Hayate-sama, will never let that happen!! Never EVER!!! I'll make sure you never forget the name of Kurogane Hayate!!")

Hayate finds motivation to compete seriously in the hoshitori after the orphanage she and Nagi lived in before they were adopted, Dandelion Garden, is vandalized by a yakuza group that the orphanage's owner owes one million yen to. Hayate makes the yakuza ease off by promising to pay the loan herself, and through sheer idiocy and tenacity she partners up with Mudou Ayana, a seemingly unbeatable student who refuses to take a sister-in-arms (and as such, can't win points even though other people can win points from her) because of the incident that caused her to break up with her previous sister-in-arms and has left her guilt-ridden.

This first three volumes' worth of material (may we see many more published in English) covers Hayate and Ayana's first fight with a girl who nurses a petty grudge against Ayana, but who Ayana doesn't even remember, Hayate and Ayana's match against nine other pairs at once (Hayate set it up so they could move up the ranks more quickly, unbeknownst to Ayana), Hayate's unpaired roommate Moka fighting to save the girl who she wants as a sister-in-arms from an abusive partner (Hayate: "Moka-chan is trying to rescue her true love from an evil villain. This duel is in a week, so I'm helping her out!" Ayana: "You know, that explanation makes no sense whatsoever."), the delightful creepiness that is Isuzu finally getting the partner she wants, another girl befriending Hayate so she can manipulate her sympathy to make her willingly lose when they fight each other (and giving her "energy drinks" before earlier matches to make her fall asleep during them, to Ayana's vexation), and the first truly serious story arc that, as all good action stories do, leaves us with a cliffhanger.

This is good stuff. The jokes are actually funny (like Ayana's solution to Hayate falling asleep during a match, Hayate's reaction to Ayana's dating sims, Hayate and Ayana's stint as Famina-Kamen and Lawson-Kamen, everything about Hitsugi), the characters are a loveable group of idiots (Hayashiya even self-referentially points out her penchant for tsukkomi-boke style humor), and there is yuri subtext aplenty, as well as canon yuri, often played for comedy. You have Hayate and Ayana's roommate Jun fangirling over Ayana, Tatewaki's jealously over Shizuku and Hitsugi, Akira and Sae's butch-femme dynamic, Yukari acting like a snippy ex towards Ayana, etc. The art is good from the beginning, but the linework becomes more clean and confident as the story itself finds its stride. The physical comedy shines and the action scenes are suitably energetic, never lasting longer than they should.

As expected from Seven Seas, the translation is very good. No complaints about honorifics or cultural references being cut, or anything. There aren't any extras, although there is a preview of Inukami in the back, which I don't care about. This volume isn't physically cumbersome to read in one sitting, which is vital for a good omnibus.

Highly recommended if you like comedy or action- or both, whipped together into a delicious blend.

Story: Starts at B+, ascends to an A (In her postscript at the end, Hayashiya writes, "It'll get better soon, I promise!" It will, but it's already great.)
Art: Starts at B+, ends at A-. I love Hayashiya's comic timing. (I'm coming across as such a Hayashiya fangirl in this review.)
Overall: See Story.

Not that it really matters, but I didn't use a photo above this time because my computer isn't importing my camera's photos, for some reason. (My word processor froze and quit twice when I was finishing my final seminar paper earlier this week- it feels like technology's out to get me right now.) And I didn't make my deadline for re-posting on the 23rd. (Apologies for the late post.)

Anyway, yay Christmas! Whether you're done with finals, looking forward to taking a break from your job for an extra long weekend, or anything else, I hope you have a great holiday weekend. ^___^


Sheldor said...

Question: Is it bad that I'm checking your blog on Christmas Day? The Marimite Christmas Carol album I'm currently playing says yes!

I loved this review! I love Hayate x Blade, just the other day I lent a few volumes to my cousin and she enjoyed them alot. I love Ayana, she just cracks me up, every time I see that nail studded bat of hers I collapsed in a fits of laughter.

Early on my favourite character was the Kaichou, she's just badass and inane all in one! I think HXB brings out the crack-pot shipping in me too, I've gotten stupidly fixated on JunxAyana for almost no reason but then someone pointed out how AyanaxYukari was shaping up to be much more interesting and I totally agree. I had another friend tell me there was no yuri at all and I had to sit her down and explain some things.

Anyway great review, nice little treat on Christmas! Merry Christmas to you too!

Katherine Hanson said...

I have the Marimite Christmas album too! (It's the geekiest Christmas album I own.) And I always welcome Mr. Nail Bat's presence.

It's great that you lent some HxB volumes to your cousin and (ehem) straightened out that issue for your friend.

AyanaxJun would be cracktastic (I briefly considered "Who would be the seme?", which made me realize what a sad gutter-mind I have), but I like AyanaxYukari more because there's more left unspoken between them. (If that makes sense. lol) More layers there to peel back.

And of course, glad my review provided some Christmas entertainment. :-)

P.S. said...

You raised a lot of good points in your review, in particular the translation.

One of the things I like about the translation is how Seven Seas has added a language that suits each of the charcters, Isuzu creepy yet polite words for example.

Speaking of Isuzu, she and Momoka are one of my favourite Shinyuu pairings. Seeing the two develop their relationship in the later volumes is both touching and funny.

The only flaw I noticed in the omnibus is the lack of translation notes that were included in the seperate volumes.

Hope you have a wonderful christmas and a happy new year.

Katherine Hanson said...

@P.S.- Thanks a lot!

Isuzu and Momoka are sweet together. I love how Isuzu manages to be utterly creepy (e.g. the homemade shrunken head keychains) and hugable (but they're a sign of friendship!) at the same time.

Nice job catching the lack of bonus translation note pages from the individual volumes. I (clearly) missed that. (It doesn't put a dent in the entertainment value of this story for me, but if Seven Seas wants to optimally expand the HxB market- which they have said is the point of releasing the omnibi- they should keep the notes.)

I agree that the translation does a great job of conveying each character's "voice."