Archive for the Hayashiya Shizuru Category


Hayate x Blade 2 (Nyan), Volume 5 Manga (はやて×ブレード2 5)

September 5th, 2017

In Hayate x Blade 2 (Nyan), Volume 5 Manga (はやて×ブレード2 5), the Ultimate Hoshitori continues moving inexorably towards a climax that will, in some ways, have to be forseeable, and others that cannot be.

While the various members of the white-uniformed Tenkuu dorm take on their counterparts of the black-clad Daichi dorm, and the various members of Hajime’s “Black Group,” among others, Hitsugi waits for any of the combatants to reach her – and make no mistake about it, she wants them to reach her and to face her and Shizuku in combat.

We get to see Jun and Yuho reaching a new peak of skill as they beat the loathsome Hideko and her sad little partner, Rosana. And we get to see Akira and Sae pair off in front of Hajime and Shingetsu, which really would be an amazing fight, if we’re allowed to see it.

But. Really, all our attention is turned to Nagi and Hayate, who face off alone. They battle their inner demons, their feelings about themselves and each other and neither can defeat the other…so Nagi decides to sit and wait for their shinyuu. Unfortunately, Kanae and Ayana are running late because they have been hijacked by the psychopath Thelma and her partner Rui. To defeat them, Kanae and Ayana are forced to dig deep. So deep, that Kanae carries an battered Ayana to the ground where they will be fighting one another. Props to Kanae, because she makes Ayana get up and enter the battleground on her own feet. At last, with minutes left in the round, the battle we all need to see is going to begin – Nagi and Kanae vs Hayate and Ayana.

The extra chapter follows the gang involved in a goofy- and extremely personal – trivia contest. It seems a bit rigged as Hitsugi declares them all losers.

We’re still at 34 main characters (32 fighters, Nagare and Taiyou, Nagi and Hayate’s parents,) for this volume, but it’s shockingly easy to follow who are what and where. As I’ve said before, one of the amazing things about the art in this series (not the most amazing…the most amazing thing is the the actions scenes are followable,) is that one never gets confused at who is who. The characters designs are that unique and identifiable. No mean feat for a book consisting of nearly 3 dozen identically-uniformed people fighting.

This volume was an edge-of-the-seat page turner for me. I’ve been waiting for Nagi and Hayate to fight (and, presumably, work through whatever baggage Nagi is carrying) for volumes. Kanae seemed just plain goofy at first, as we were seeing her through Nagi’s eyes, but we can see that she and Nagi have become a strong partnership in their own right and I feel positive about the four of them fighting now.

Another great volume, deeply embedded in the intense the blood, sweat and tears relationships of sisters-at-arms, with the physical comedy of a Three Stooges episode. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 10
Story – 10
Characters – 10
Yuri – 0 Hayate picked up the Yuri ball, but Ayana spiked it at her head. Jun is left merely honestly admiring her “princess,” Yuho.
Service – 4 For me, the blood sweat and tears *is* service and this was a bloody, sweaty and teary volume.

Overall – 10

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Hayate x Blade 2 (Nyan), Volume 4 Manga (はやて×ブレード2 4)

December 27th, 2016

Welcome to the last Okazu review of 2016. This year has been challenging and rewarding and amazing and dreadful. And, so, I had  good long think about which book I wanted to represent this year for me. It took only a moment to realize that the series that best represents this year for me is Hayate x Blade by Hayashiya Shizuru. ^_^

In Hayate x Blade 2 (Nyan), Volume 4 (はやて×ブレード2 4), the Ultimate Hoshitori is on.

We finally take on the burning question we’ve asked outselves since practically the very first volume….who is better, Momoka and Isuzu or Otoha and Michi? The great otokoyaku battle begins…and ends. The ending was never really in doubt.

The students of the Black Group and the students of Tenchi Academy have now been integrated, but they are not abiding peacefully. Fubuki Hajime’s group is dedicated to bringing about the defeat of Amachi Hitsugi and her noble warriors. At last Hajime and Hitsugi come face to face. The ending was never in doubt.

You may think I was exaggerating about the number of main characters last volume, but I counted and there are literally 32 main characters in this volume. 32 main characters. And new ones added all the time.

Ratings:

Art – 10 
Story – 10 
Characters – 10 
Yuri – 0 Jun was very reserved this issue.
Service – 0  Less Jun, less service.

Overall – 10

Hitsugi’s only desire is to see smiles through the blood, laughter through the tears and to watch her schoolmates strive ever onward, past pain and defeat to fight, to defend, and to shine. 

And so they do.

And so will we. 

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Thank you for sticking with me this year, as we traveled the world together and spoke in all kind of venues and read and watched and listened to so many Yuri…things. Next up, let’s look at some of the best things of the year! Top Ten Lists ahoy!

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Hayate x Blade 2 (Nyan), Volume 3 Manga (はやて×ブレード2 3)

December 16th, 2015

HxB23-275x394Since 2004, I have been raving about this series and since about 2007 or so, I have taken to commenting that, statistically speaking, we are overdue for a less awesome volume. So far, statistics have been on our side, as Hayate x Blade 2 (Nyan), Volume 3 (はやて×ブレード2 3) is just as ridiculous and magnificent as every other volume of this series to date.

Histugi’s Summer Festival is in full swing, and her unique ideas for an obstacle course are…unique. Regular students take up the sword to defeat Heaven fighters, all interestingly restrained, while their Earth partners make their way through the sports clubs as obstacles to find the buzzers that release the restraints.

In the middle of the chaos Hayate and Nagi face off. But this, we can see, is not the final chapter in this tale. Nagi is the stronger…but she shouldn’t be.  What is really eating at Nagi and why Hayate can no longer stand toe to toe with her twin remains to be explored. And we have to wonder if it’s tied into the reason that their adoptive mother Nagare takes off after their adoptive father, Taiyou, with a knife when she sees him. ^_^

School is back in session and we all know what that means! The Hoshitori is about to commence. New rules, new matchups and more sword-fighting madness is on the horizon. I can’t wait!

The extra chapter was so funny that my wife commented that even not being able to read the Japanese, she laughed at it. You remember back at the winter semester break, Otoha found herself joining a Native American tribe on a buffalo hunt, and meeting a doppelganger for Hitsugi? No? How on earth could you forget that? I mean, it was a buffalo hunt. Anyway, the doppelganger’s name was Sanba, she told Kiji to call her “Sunny.” In the extra chapter here in Volume 3, Sunny and Hitsugi meet and, as you might expect, something amazing happens. In this case, they take off like a rocket ship and fly away together, returning three days later after having raided Tokyo Disneyland, Otome Road and Skytree.

Ratings:

Art – 10 There are more then 40 main characters and I can tell them apart.
Story – 10 Sublime, especially when Hitsugi and Shizuku are going to be shot out of barrels.
Characters – 10 Did I mention that Hitsugi and Shizuku are going to be shot out of barrels?
Yuri – 1 for Jun on principle
Service – 1 for Jun on principle

Overall – 10

Always, always, always Hayate x Blade is a ridiculously silly, ridiculously violent, and ridiculously satisfying read.

 

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Hayate x Blade 2 Manga, Volume 2 (はやてxブレード 2)

August 19th, 2015

615EVWBRbLLI gotta be honest with you. Every time I finish reading a volume of Hayate x Blade, I award myself a little mental achievement badge. Partially because for a goofball comedy, this is some of the most difficult Japanese I read on a regular basis, but also because it’s such a tremendously excellent series that I feel I have gained something critical with each volume. ^_^

In Volume 1 of the new series, Amachi Hitsugi rolled out the new dorms and the new Hoshitori rules. In Volume 2 of Hayate x Blade Nyan (はやてxブレード 2), she commences the Summer Festival, in which she turns the Tench Academy students’ lives into an unending extreme obstacle course.

First, there’s the entrance to the resort island where the festival will take place. The ladder game used for decision making, Amidakuji, is reproduced as a thin scaffolding crossing the ocean. The bars are coated in oil, so students may slip off into the water. Only those students who make it across will be part of the Summer Festival.

Those who make the crossing successfully find themselves assigned to cottages which include members of both the Tenkuu and Daichi dorms. Right away, cottage members are assigned as teams to run the multi-part obstacle race to gather food and utensils in order to make their evening’s dinner, which is of course, curry. They collect seafood from the ocean, carry heavy portions of rice through the jungle, spelunk to find equipment to cook with and are, if they gain the required items in the time allotted, awarded with the curry powder they need.

To celebrate achieving their first goal – and eating dinner – the Tenchi students annoy the shit out of the Black Group by having fun and lighting fireworks.

Character development-wise, we finally start to crack open the safe that is Nagi. Nagi’s mask slips a bit when she’s paired with Ayana who already knows her weakness for the dark from Hayate. And she is further challenged when Hitsugi basically rips the emotional mask off her in the blunt, but decent manner she has. “Do you love the sword?” she asks…and Nagi doesn’t really have an answer.

While Hitsugi challenges Nagi’s worldview, Hajime does the same to Hayate. You are weak, the Black Group leader tells Hayate, you are dogs who come at Hitsugi’s call. Hayate fights back with – we’re not dogs, we’re having fun, duh.

Hayate thinks she’s weaker than Nagi, but in this volume, it becomes ever more clear that it’s probably the other way around.

A bonus chapter has Visual Band ZLAY (Strawberry Shake crossover!!!) visiting the island and performing in all their Yuri glory, which confuses the heck out of some of the students. Ayana’s all in when they start to play a series end theme she really likes. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 9
Character – 9
Yuri – 0
Service – 1 We get a little Hitsugi dress-up.

Overall – 9

As always, the action is top notch, the characters are complex, multi-facted, complicated and interesting and the comedy is low and broad. What a great read. More please! Never stop! Achievement unlocked!

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Yuri Manga: Strawberry Shake (ストロベリーシェイク)

June 28th, 2015

downloadIt was the beginning of 2004. The magazine was called Yuri Shimai. The comic was an actual comedy, with physical gags blown way out of proportion. There was an idiot and a doofus and they fell in love, but didn’t realize it. The comedy was manzai-style, with blood and tears and extreme over-reactions to silly jokes. It was Hayashiya Shizuru’s professional Yuri debut. She’d been drawing doujinshi in that same style for years, and made her pro debut previously, but for those of us who were or would become fans, Strawberry Shake Sweet was the first time she was a pro “Yuri” artist.

Yuri Shimai was cancelled and in 2005,  Yuri Hime picked up the series. In 2006, a collected Volume 1 was released, followed by Volume 2 in 2009. Hayashiya-sensei left Yuri Hime and has gone on to do great things with Shuiesha. And so it is with both delight and trepidation that I review Shueisha’s re-release of this series as a one-volume collection, Strawberry Shake (ストロベリーシェイク).

The story follows Tachibana Julia a young “Talent” in Japanese TV. (Which is to say she does everything and anything, from starring in TV dramas, to advertisements, to quiz shows.) She’s asked to mentor a newcomer to the agency, Asakawa Ran, but instead, falls in love with Ran.

Ran isn’t the brightest bulb in the box, and Julia isn’t much better. Between the two of them and very much despite the objections of their manager, they’ll have to figure it all out on their own.

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Strawberry Shake is very much played for the laughs. Touching or romantic moments are frequently marked by massive nosebleeds. If you’re not used to Hayashiya-sensei’s style, or classic manzai, the amount of violence might surprise you. The other thing that might surprise you is the ending. As I said when I reviewed Volume 2, “I absolutely refuse to spoil the rest of the chapter, except to say that you will probably be outraged and/or disappointed by the end.”

So, here we are over a decade after the comic was originally begun and a lot of things have changed. Yuri is a genre of it’s own. Hayashiya-sensei is a star among Yuri artists. And same-sex marriage is a thing that is discussed in the news, in the courts. Even in Japan, where Shibuya is the only part of the country that allows same-sex marriage, the conversation has begun.

What does that mean for a comic like Strawberry Shake? It means that some of the jokes just don’t hold up that well. Saeki Ryouko, Julia and Ran’s manager, in 2004 was a comedic figure. In 2015, she seems just like a closeted homophobe. Sorry Saeki-san, but you protest *way* too much. ^_^ Comedy is harder than tragedy. In Strawberry Shake, the comedy is vaudevillian, and so, a relic of the past, rather than a joke we’re all laughing at now.

The essential love story is still cute and maddening and adorable and sweet. ZLAY is still absolutely fucked up hilarious. The climax of the manga is still fantastic. And the new extra chapter? “I absolutely refuse to spoil the rest of the chapter, except to say that you will probably be outraged and/or disappointed by the end.” ^_^;

Should you get it? Yes. This is an important book for Yuri fans. Will you like it? Maybe. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 9 It’s striking to see just how much better her art is now than it was in 2004. This volume has been touched up, but look at the first and final chapters to see a difference.
Story – 7 It has worn a little around the edges over time.
Characters – 8
Yuri – 8
Service – 2

Overall – 8

Again I will quote myself from 2009: “As funny as this manga is, I’m forced to conclude that this story is not *quite* as perfect for Hayashiya-sensei as Hayate x Blade. The action component just catapults that series to perfection.

But hey – this is a groundbreaking series. A Yuri series for Yuri magazine by a woman who has been drawing Yuri comedy for a long, long time. A must-have for any fan of Yuri.”

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