Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hayate x Blade Volume 6

By Shizuru Hayashiya. Originally released in Japan by ASCII Media Works, serialized in the magazine Dengeki Daioh. Currently released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Ultra Jump. Released in North America by Seven Seas.

This is, above all else, a very funny manga. I can think of dozens of places in this volume where I laughed, mostly as the humor can come from any character. There's a lot of Osaka-style boke and tsukkomi humor (in fact, literally in one chapter - Riona and Ouka perform a theatrical Osaka routine, complete with bow ties), but the beauty of this series is that anyone can be funny at any time. There are no straight men in HxB - just different levels of comedian. Even Akira, she of the huge fan club devoted to worshipping her, can get away with one of the best punchlines in the volume just by taking off her coat.

Of course, it helps that the characters are all very likeable and interesting. We want to follow them, want to laugh at their predicaments. Even if there's more and more of them with every volume. (I will admit I do think a drawback of the series is that it introduces too many people too quickly - there's a lot of named characters, all of whom wander in and out of the action continuously - and that you have to consult past volumes to jog your brain.) There was a lovely bit in one chapter where Yuho, Jun's partner from previous volumes who is still battling illness, spends most of the time cringing at Jun's antics and sweatdropping at all the stupidity going on around her. Yet when Jun's dad asks about her friends, Jun smiles brightly, and notes she can't wait to come back here.

This being Hayate x Blade, there is also lots of swordfighting. The first half continues the comedic effect, as to try to keep things 'balanced', Hitsugi has the good swordfighters fight with... ladles. Even so, it's 80 bad fighters with swords vs. eight fantastic fighters with ladles, so you know what's going to happen. (Great joke where Ayana is far more confident when it's 80 vs. 2. After it becomes 80 vs. 8, the odds are much WORSE for a miracle.) The end of the volume is deadly serious, though, as Ayana's old partner Yukari and her current partner Maki take on the violent and evil (respectively) Ensuu and Meiko. (Well, OK, no one in HxB is genuinely evil. Ensuu is more of a crazed animal than anything else. Meiko does come off as a callous jerk so far, though.) The fight is well-choreographed, and goes beyond the rules pretty quickly - Maki gets her wrist broken. Things end on a cliffhanger, unfortunately.

Sadly, it may be a cliffhanger we never see resolved. When Seven Seas announced they had bought the rights to Hayate x Blade, they noted they had the rights to the first 6 volumes, with an option for more. This is very typical licensing for series over here, especially ones that are ongoing. Right after this, Hayashiya left ASCII Media Works and took Hayate x Blade to Shueisha, where it began serialization in their seinen title Ultra Jump. Shueisha has reprinted Vol. 1-8 in Japan, and now has 3 more volumes to add to that.

Now, I'm pretty sure that Mediaworks still has the rights to their own Vol. 7 & 8, and it may theoretically be possible to license the last two Mediaworks volumes to come out here. I'm not sure, though. HxB doesn't sell well (I'm guessing at this, but it was one of the titles dropped by Diamond Comics as it didn't hit their 'sales threshhold'), and it is unlikely in the extreme that Shueisha would work with Seven Seas to get out future volumes. Nor is it likely that this is a series that will move to Viz. So, Hayate x Blade is stuck in a particularly nasty form of licensing hell, one due to various factors.

If this is the final volume in North America, it's ended at a poor place. But I'm very happy that Seven Seas did put out the first six. It's a fun, funny title with lots of great fights, and dozens of strong, kickass female characters. I highly recommend catching up to it, mostly as if it sells a little better Seven Seas might try to option the final two Mediaworks volumes.

1 comment:

  1. Possible spoilers...

    Favorite lines from v.6:
    "Lawson maid mask transform!"

    "I'll be good for 10 Chirori chocolates."

    "I mean... you finally met her! After being separated your whole lives! And the 2,000 years of your previous lives too!!"

    I lost track of where I was counting exclamation points at 405 so it definitely makes quota and exceeds the average from past volumes and then some.