I know that when I call Hayate x Blade Volume 7 a “Yuri” manga, I’m stretching the boundaries a bit on the word. There is, as I have mentioned previously, one lesbian character (Jun, who behaves in that typically shounen series pervtastic way) and there’s a whopping load of relationships which lie just on the border between shinyuu and Yuri between the shinyuu. (That sentence contained a pun, but it failed utterly in English. Bah.)
Volume 7 deals primarily with the endlessly fascinating Mikado Akira – she of the 80-member “A-Team” fan club. (Akira is a popular character with fan artists as well, I have quite a few doujinshi that deal with Akira’s apparently cool, but actually fraught, relationship with Hitsugi. And of course her relationship with her shinyuu/ sister-in-arms, Sae.) In this volume, Akira and Sae challenge Hitsugi to a duel, but the council president denies them the request. Instead, she insists that they will fight two other members on the Council, Sid and Nancy, in an exhibition match.
Much of the volume delves into Sae and Akira’s relationship and how, as a child, having been rejected for being a girl, Akira decided that she would become a boy. Sae met her when they were very young, but in typical boy fashion, Akira doesn’t remember that at all. ^_^ The flashbacks are an interesting look into Akira’s history, but an even more interesting perspective on Sae’s relationship with Akira. Upon remembering little Akira’s vow to become a boy, high school Sae pokes Akira in her breast and laughs, saying, “You lied.”
Sid and Nancy are appropriately dysfunctional, as befits their names. Sid, who is a pathetic, yet amusing freak insists that she is an anarchist punk (again appropriately,) but she’s really a wuss. Nancy manipulates her very easily – should I mention how appropriate that is, again? Sid also curses in English rendered in Katakana. It’s always so rewarding to spend ten minutes staring at a conglomeration of characters, only to realize that it’s something brilliant like, “Holy Shit” or “Goddamn Bitch!” ^_^ Because it takes me so long to read Sid’s tirades, they are just that much funnier to me when I realize how utterly banal she is. (There’s a scene in the middle of their fight when Sid basically accuses Akira, who wears studded belt, collar at the throat and multiple earrings, of being a Hot Topics punk, while she says how she is a REAL punk – Anarchy! Fuck! – which completely cracked me up.)
Because of the nature of their natures, we barely pay attention to Sae fighting Nancy. Even they are sort of half-hearted about their side of the match, knowing that it’s their butches partners who are the real show here.
Hayate offers Akira good luck in the form of two cat mascots for her and Sae’s swords…does that make an even dozen cats now? I think so. Maybe more. During the battle, the cat mascots turn out to be a huge clue. Because. In order to ensure that their idol Akira is the hero of the day, the A-team has helpfully sabotaged her partner Sae’s weapon. But because they are as dumb as a sack of doorknobs, they got it and wrong and…you guessed, it, it is Akira’s weapon that falls apart, just as Sid launches a powerful attack. It’s a case of the immovable object being attacked by an irresistible force as the book comes to an abrupt, if not unexpected, end.
Art – 8 (I think it’s getting a little better in fact, but I can’t tell you why until I review Volume 8)
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Yuri – 4
Service – 3
Overall – 9
This is good stuff. For a drama it’s funny; for a comedy, it’s deep and thoughtful. The action is over the top and interesting. The personal relationships are still the main focus. Hayashiya Shizuru really has the chops. She’s got something for just about everyone in this series. And she has just about everything I like under the sun in it. Hayate x Blade is total, purest win. And once again, in case you missed the announcement, Seven Seas has licensed the series. The first volume is slated to ship in Q2 2008. I’ll look forward to reviewing it. ;-)