(07/28/07: If you have come to this review after reading that Seven Seas has licensed the manga, please feel free to click Hayate x Blade for all my reviews of this series!)
*Special thanks to Touko_no_doriru-san, who told me about this terrific series! Thank you so much for the heads up!*
I probably shouldn’t even be writing this review yet, as I haven’t had a proper read-through of this manga – but it really is so wonderful, I wanted to rave a little. I promise to read it more thoroughly before I review Volume 2. ^_^
To put it simply, Hayate (the redhead on the left of the above cover) is a heroine of the uber-genki, out-of-control sort. (Readers familiar with Strawberry Shake can easily liken her to Julia.) Hayate’s sister was supposed to have attended a special elite school, but is unable to attend, so Hayate decides to masquerade as her. Of course, this ruse is quickly uncovered, but she is allowed to stay…on a few conditions.
The school is the sort that, had it ever truly existed, I would have moved heaven and earth to attend. ^_^ The girls all carry swords and rank at the school is attained by joining the “Star Taking” Hoshitori which basically means sword-fighting with the other girls to move up in rank. There appears to monetary compensation for high ranks – with a large prize at the very top.
Hayate lives with a young woman Chiharu, who runs an orphanage and who continually insists, quite forcefully at times, that she will marry Hayate. Hayate doesn’t seem to think there’s anything wrong with this – she acts very father-like to the orphans. As it turns out, Hayate and her sister were raised there.
When she attends school, she immediately she runs into several problems. She falls foul of intemperate upperclassmen, of course. And the house she lives in is trashed by a greedy real estate agent. Along with the special circumstances of her being allowed to stay at the school, she now *needs* money and rank, so she joins the Hoshitori to attain both. In order to participate in the Way of the Sword, one needs a partner, so Hayate picks the most aloof, least attainable and easily the most skilled girl at school…a girl who was once the highest ranked ever who, for reasons that have many rumors attached to them, but no hard facts, has stopped being an active fighter.
Through sheer insanity, Hayate convinces this girl, Mudoh Ayana, to be her partner – but the Council makes one condition. Since Hayate is a beginner, they must both start from the very bottom of the ranks.
We learn very quickly that Hayate has some genuine innate hand-to-hand skills, even though her sword technique is rough, and that Ayana’s past history includes a deeply painful break-up with her former partner, now the highest ranked sword fighter in the middle school.
As you can imagine, this manga is filled with all *sorts* of hints about the relationships between the various partners, and there is overt akogare on Hayate’s part for her new uber-cool partner (which makes for a cute rivalry with Chiharu.)
Basically, you got the whole soeur thing going, with the addition of swords and fighting. This is very good thing, IMHO. ^_^ In this case, the relationship is referred to as “shinyuu” which can be translated as both, “close friends” and “sisters-in-arms”.
The art is, again, familiar to anyone who has read Strawberry Shake, and the characters are all instantly likable. I definitely give this series a whopping big thumbs up.
Art – 8
Story – 8
Characters – 8
Yuri – 7
Overall – 8
A solid entry to the Yuri lists, and one that I will follow with great enjoyment!