Haro Aso – Viz – 2011 – 7 volumes
I have a special fondness for quirky Shounen Sunday series. I don’t know if I’m just Shounen Jumped out, but I find myself quite taken with the strange, but endearing, twists the Sunday comics usually contain.
For instance, this is a series with wizards. Okay, I’ve read about a hundred of these. But the wizards in this series use their powers through little anthropomorphic dolls that follow them around. These can be Japanese Hina dolls, a suit of armor, or a teddy bear. Hyde, the teddy bear, has a move called “Texas Chainsaw.” He also smokes cigars and wears a fedora.
I know I shouldn’t fall for gimmicks after all these years. As awesome as that is, it doesn’t necessarily make for a good series. But this one is also only seven volumes long, so I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. I was a little surprised when the author revealed that the whole thing was ending next volume, because it sounds like it’s gearing up for a rather long second half at the beginning of the book. It has what sounds like about ten volumes worth of material for any other series, but I’m glad that all the usual filler and fighting is going to be condensed. Bleach could learn something from this.
It’s not just the cute gimmicks that make me like Shounen Sunday series, though. They tend to be a little sweeter, a little less ‘tude-filled than Jump series as well. Unfortunately, jumping in six volumes into this one, I’m getting shorthand for these characters, and they’re striking me as stereotypes. But none of them are really focused on in this volume, so they may have just been glossed over in favor of advancing the plot. To be fair, Ana and Shakka Shakka Mekki seem pretty awesome.
Coming in at the end, I don’t really want to comment on the story too much, but I did like what I saw. There was clearly a big finish to a major story arc, and Closer has the opportunity to use a very unusual and very forbidden weapon. In the run-up to the second story arc, we get to see Closer’s grandfather and the ultimate evil weapon for about a second, then the story flashes back to a hospital scene to better explain the bad guys and let the characters have a little fun. There’s some artifact hunting and standing up for your friends and whatnot mixed in there somewhere. It is a shounen manga.
One of the more interesting things about this volume, however, was the story told by the main villain. He talks about the two most evil people in the world. One of them killed people from inside the womb with sorcery. The other is a scary cult-born psychopath. Both are rather terrifying. One has gold plating in his teeth that spell out “hate.” The stories, and the characters, are shockingly violent and dark for this type of series. They do kill people, which is something that almost never happens.
Would I go back for the rest of this? Yeah, I bet it would be worth it. It seems like a lot of fun, it’s short, and maybe marginally better than yet another 30-volume Jump series. But again, that might just be my recent fondness for Shounen Sunday series showing through.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.