From the stack: Aventura

November 11, 2007

Shin Midorikawa’s Aventura (Del Rey) falls into the category of what I call “If you say so” manga. By that I mean that the underlying mythology is generally impenetrable to me, no matter how carefully the manga-ka tries to articulate it.

In this case, it’s magic. The series takes place in a school dedicated to the subject where students are divided into two categories – wizards and swordspersons. Scruffy redhead Lewin Randit is on the hack-and-slash track, though it’s not his first choice. Unfortunately, he seems to have no magical aptitude whatsoever outside of some minor pyromaniac tendencies.

In spite of the segregation, he meets a budding witch and wizard in the school library, and they form a solid friendship. Yes, it’s three youngsters, two male and one female, navigating magic school together, and Lewin has an odious, Draco Malfoy-esque rival, though the similarities to Harry Potter pretty much end there.

For one thing, Aventura is a lot more sincere. There’s nothing particularly antic going on, and daily life seems to consist of lots of long talks about following dreams and being true to yourself. The magical content is beyond my ability (or desire) to fully comprehend as well, much more theoretical than practical. I think it has something to do with earth, wind, fire and water, but it seems vastly more complicated.

It’s gorgeous to look at. Midorikawa’s illustrations are eye-poppingly detailed and generally flow well. I just wish they were in service to a more gripping story.

(Review based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.)

From the stack: Hikkatsu! Strike a Blow to Vivify

November 11, 2007

I’ve just put the finishing touches on this week’s Flipped, with cooking manga in the spotlight, and I was hoping to be able to wedge Yu Yagami’s Hikkatsu! Strike a Blow to Vivify (Go! Comi) into the mix. Alas, in spite of the protagonist’s dedication to violent appliance repair, he doesn’t give so much as a hostile look to a microwave, much less roundhouse-kick a convection oven into compliance.

Yes, the protagonist, Shota, uses karate to repair broken appliances, or at least he hopes to. For the most part, his efforts just guarantee that the appliances will never work again. It’s amusingly ridiculous, if not ridiculously amusing.

Shota’s quest is based in a misunderstanding. During a scolding, his sensei insisted Shota use karate only to help, and the logic of a six-year-old took it from there. After a decade of training atop Mt. Fuji, he re-enters the world with an equally bizarre paramour at his side. (Momoko is a spirited young woman who was raised by pigeons, and she’s completely undeterred by the fact that Shota seems only marginally aware of her presence.) A trio forms when Shota and Momoko run into a crook named Kanji who makes a living selling a variety of dodgy merchandise.

Fortunately, Yagami has a better success rate with the jokes than Shota does with his work-in-progress repair strike. They don’t all work, but some are genuinely hilarious, and the series is good-natured overall. The art is a lot of fun, all gangly figures and loopy action sequences. It’s Go! Comi, so you know the production values and translation are of high quality.

If I was going to unreservedly recommend an absurdly funny action series, it would probably be Hideaki Sorachi’s Gin Tama (Viz). But Hikkatsu! makes a solid, second-place showing.

(Review based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.)