A new school term has begun and things are changing at Tenchi Gakuen as Hayate x Blade, Volume 16 (はやてｘブレード) opens.
Superficially, the uniforms are different, and the rules of the Hoshitori are going to change. New students have arrived and new pair of shinyuu are arrayed for combat. Even the Student Council is different, as members who were seen as unmovable have fallen from the S-rank. Ayana and Jun have moved up into the high school at Tenchi, and Hayate and Momoka and their friends are now no longer first-years. Everyone is on pins and needles waiting for that first Hoshitori bell, signalling the new era.
In the middle of the chaos, we turn towards Momoka. Hayate’s stalwart friend and supporter, whose trials and travails in finding and keeping a partner, some of the very first arcs we were able to enjoy in English, is once again center stage. In a cast as big as this manga now has, it’s refreshing and nostalgic to remember where we started. Hayate relies on Momoka, as does Isuzu, her adoring and adorable partner. But who can Momoka rely on? Ultimately, her desire to be reliable undermines her confidence every time, and once again, she has to face the toughest enemy she has…herself.
She has seen Hayate, someone who is appreciably smaller and stupider than herself, rise through the ranks. Hayate and Ayana are poised on the brink of Special A-rank, with only Yukari and Maki in their way.
Let me digress for a moment here – in any other series, the battle with Maki and Yukari would have been epic. Yukari and Ayana, former shinyuu, with years of hard feelings and miscommunication between them…youch. But, you know…that’s all unimportant now. Ayana purged her demons when she fought Ensuu and Meiko. And Yukari purged hers *before* she and Maki did the same. They have nothing between them now – nothing except the desire to face one another and see who wins. This fight, when it comes, will be several steps beyond epic. Maki vs Ayana, Yukari vs Hayate. Think about it. It’s going to be nuts.
But back on planet Earth with the rest of the mortals, there’s Momoka, staring at Hayate who works too hard, plays too hard, eats too freaking much, sleeps like the dead and starts all over again at the beginning. Every day. Momoka knows she’s outclassed by Hayate, but can’t figure out why. And that pisses her off. She can see Hayate only has the settings 0 and 10. Why can’t she get to her 10? The only way she’s ever going to know is when she stands toe-to-toe with Hayate. And Isuzu, ever by her side, agrees to take on this suicidal task.
Ayana and Hayate vs Isuzu and Momoka. In a straight up, full-out, no tricks, no goofball moves, honest to goodness Hoshitori battle.
What’s lies beyond epic? This.
Art – 9
Story – 10
Characters – 10
Yuri – 1
Service – 1
Overall – 10
What a fucking fabulous series this is.