Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Hyde & Closer
After Hyde's defeat at the hands of The Watcher in the Window, Shunpei is determined to find a way to revive him. But all of his friends, not yet recovered from The Watcher, are fighting the latest sorcerer to set his mind on Shunpei's heart, and the physical tolls will be high. Later Shunpei and his friends head to Africa to help out Alsyd Closer. Are they on to a way to defeat the curse item Resentment? Maybe, but so are The Watcher's latest goons, the psychotic Asmodai and Ronove.
There is one volume left in this tale of a boy and his chainsaw-wielding, tough-talking teddy, and it may or may not be worth reading. Where previous to these two books Hyde & Closer has been a fun, if episodic, journey of sorcerers and their sentient toys, mangaka Haro Aso tries to mix it up here, and the results are clunky at best. This may in part be due to the fact that the manga changed serialization formats, moving from the print magazine to an online one. Regardless, the swift end to part one (in volume 5) and disjointed commencement of part two give these volumes a decreased enjoyability.
Volume five opens slightly after the end of the epic battle that closed out the fourth book. Hyde has been “killed” and Shunpei is going through some serious grieving. His friends are concerned, particularly since Shindo has discovered an unprecedented number of sorcerers primed to attack. While Shunpei wallows in his grief, Shindo, Ana, and Kazan set out to fight Schubert, the childish president of a toy company who has turned all of his products into sentient weapons with the help of one hundred sorcerers. Meanwhile Pacwa and Tatsumi try to get Shunpei to motivate himself and resume the battle for his life. Ultimately, however, it is a mysterious postcard from Grandpa that galvanizes our hero into coming out of his self-imposed solitude. With Pacwa's help, Shunpei unlocks his true powers as a sorcerer of the Closer line and comes to the rescue of his friends. After explaining The Watcher in the Window's plot to the one hundred assembled sorcerers, part one ends.
Volume six begins part two, which is clearly slated to be much more concise than its predecessor. Aso is obviously trying something new here – the book opens with Tatsumi narrating the group's arrival in Africa to help Alsyd Closer, but then the clock is turned back by Hyde taking over the narration to show us what motivated the trip in the first place. A third section narrated by The Watcher details his idea of what “true evil” is and gives the histories of his two most powerful minions, beefy Asmodai and nearly-indecent Ronove. Then the narration totally vanishes as Aso resumes his more typical narrative style. While there is plenty of action, both magical and physical, the mixed format makes the book a bumpier read than has been typical for the series, and also gives the impression that part two will be a compressed, rushed deal.
Not that Aso doesn't do plenty of things right. Hyde, the self-described “hardboiled teddy bear,” has long been an attraction, and his tough guy demeanor remains a draw. Shunpei's growth from wimp to self-confident young man is swift but worth cheering for, and he does spout some good messages about friendship for any younger readers not terrified by the idea of their toy soldiers coming to life and assembling tank models to kill people. Aso's art also stands out. Volume five is full of dynamic fight scenes and some truly scary toys gone bad, a bit reminiscent of Mike Raicht and Brian Smith's graphic novel series The Stuff of Legend. Volume six brings more two-page spreads than any other book with epic stand-offs, a frightening human fossilization spell that slowly creeps over bodies, and some creepy scenes showcasing Ronove's powers. Ronove herself has some nice visual touches, such as the swirly screen tone Aso sometimes uses for her lips. Some readers may also enjoy the fanservice her barely-there outfit provides. It is clear that in the original serialization there were a lot of color pages in these chapters, and its too bad Viz couldn't reproduce them here, as it is obvious that some of them would be improved in terms of impact by the addition of color.
Really the major problems here lie in volume six. Volume five is still a romp, albeit is bloody and sometimes scary one, and brings about the climactic change in Shunpei's character. Volume six is potentially a game changer for our heroes, but it is so disjointed in execution that the plot suffers. While Ronove and Asomdai are worthy foes and Aso clearly enjoys himself in terms of creating their powers (check out the tentacle action!), their introduction isn't quite linear enough to make the proper amount of impact. It is this volume that makes one question whether or not volume seven, the series' last according to Aso, will go back to the more fluid format of the first books or will continue to jump from narrator to narrator. The carrots that Aso dangles – such as the cryptic message aged sorcerer Kokkuri is spelling out by playing, well, kokkuri, the ouija-like Japanese fortune telling game – are tempting, so it may be worth it. And after all, it will be the end, so maybe it is best to enjoy volume five, take volume six with a grain of salt, and move right on the ending when it comes out. Haro Aso's tale isn't perfect, but it has been a fun ride for the most part, and hopefully it will finish with a bang.
Overall : C+
Story : C+
Art : B+
+ Epic battles, scary enemies, and a hero who finally comes into his own.
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