Review

by Theron Martin, Jan 13th 2008

Hikkatsu!

GN 1

Synopsis:
Hikkatsu! GN 1
On a future Earth where magnetic abnormalities have rendered appliances unreliable, life is a struggle to survive marred by static electricity warnings and lawless zones between cities where mutated animals and enthusiast clans rampage. Young karate black belt Shota, told by his sensei not to use karate on other people, settles on a new purpose: he will develop and master the Repair Punch, an attack which restores proper functionality when struck against a broken object. Ten years later Shota is still fruitlessly struggles to master the attack when he hooks up with Momoko, a girl raised by pigeons who takes a sudden fancy to him when he helps her out in a jam. He also later gains a business partner in the form of the con man Kanji. For all his failures, though, it does seem like, on occasion, Shota's Repair Punch actually works, but he cannot outrun the sins of his past for long.
Review:

Yu Yagami, the manga-ka responsible for the screwball comedies Those Who Hunt Elves and Dokkoida?!, strikes again with another eccentric tale designed to generate lots of laughs. Here he takes a very basic but amusing premise – a karate expert failing miserably to develop one of those outlandish special attacks often seen in martial arts media content – and runs with it as far as it will go. The notion that Shota would take such an ordinary action as slapping a TV to get better reception and turn it into an attack form is absurd in of itself, but that he persists in trying to work it out even when he clearly is doing nothing more than destroying the appliances he hits raises the ludicrousness another notch. That it actually works in a few cases is even more ridiculous.

Serious, single-minded Shota has so little personality himself that adding in two much more colorful recurring characters becomes an absolute necessity to maintain a reasonable comic tempo. Hot-blooded, imaginative Momoko walks around with a pigeon on her heard, regards pigeons as her parents, and fantasizes about making Shota her husband, although Shota seems oblivious to her affection. Kanji is your typical con man, one who can show an honest side but more often just acts like a fast-talking swindler. Towards the end of the volume female karate expert Asuka, who also appears destined to become a recurring character, enters the picture but has little time to establish much of a personality beyond a fiery devotion to revenge. With her introduction the story seems to take a serious turn, though given the construction of the first three chapters that trends seems unlikely to last.

Yagami's artistry uses background art sparingly, instead focusing more on the characters and what they are doing. His character designs do not conform to normal anime stereotypes but do not stray far from them, either, with the pencil-thin Momoko, with her sleeveless Chinese-style top and lanky build, garnering the most distinctive look. Shota, by comparison, can look satisfyingly manly but is most consistently noteworthy for having a more specifically Asian design than the norm for anime titles, while Kanji is most noteworthy for a somewhat caricatured appearance featuring incredibly big lips. The artistry, on the whole, is not among the sharper or more refined examples of manga art out there, but it gets by for what it needs to do: depict the jokes in a funny fashion and convincingly portray what passes for action scenes.

Go! Comi's production of the first volume offers respectable cover art, page quality, and binding. Its translation flows smoothly, with sound effects in original form with accompanying unobtrusive translations where space allows and in English only where space is tight. It opens with a page explaining Japanese honorifics and closes with a page of Translator's Notes, with a five-page bonus manga taking a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Hikkatsu! directly before the latter.

The first volume of Hikkatsu! is not the funniest, best-looking, or most entertaining manga title out there, but it has enough pseudo-martial arts in it, and has good enough comic timing with its quirky sense of humor (Puppy Eyes Enthusiast Clan?!?), to qualify as a satisfying light read.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-

+ Amusing concept, good portrayal of action scenes.
Artwork otherwise not especially well-refined.

Story & Art:Yu Yagami

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Hikkatsu! (manga)

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Hikkatsu! (GN 1)

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