Reviewby Theron Martin,
Hybrid x Heart Magias Academy Ataraxia
manga volume 1
Twice in the span of 15 years, a mysterious alien race attacked Earth via extradimensional portals called Entrances using mecha-like entities called Magitech Weapons, destroying the planet's conventional military forces in the process. The second time around, humanity was forced to migrate to Megafloats in the ocean, as Entrances can only be opened above land masses of sufficient size. Only one weapon seems capable of successfully combating the threat: the HHGs, or Hybrid Heart Gears, which have been installed in select teenagers who show high compatibility. Kizuna Hida, as the son of the HHG's inventor, was among the earliest to be installed with such gear, but he was abandoned by his mother in favor of more promising subjects. Still, even though his gear Eros is weak in combat compared to the trio of girls who form the strike team Amaterasu, he is given captaincy of the team for one important reason: by bonding with the girls through lustful behavior, he can recharge their Hybrid Counts (which allows them to use their Gear) and even power up the girls. Of course, some of them are more receptive to this idea than others.
Hybrid x Heart Magias Academy Ataraxia started out as a light novel series, so both this version and its 2016 anime version are adaptations. Whereas the original light novels have not been licensed for release in the U.S. as of the time of this writing, the manga version is hitting English-speaking market with this volume.
Volume 1 of the manga covers the same story as episodes 1 and 2 of the anime series and some content from episode 3. While some scenes are replicated almost exactly, others deliver reveals differently, flesh out the scene more, or relocate where certain events happen; one scene involving HHG user Aine demanding a power-up from Kizuna happens in a park in the anime but in Kizuna's room here. The manga also starts differently, as it lacks the anime's flash-forward to a point when Kizuna is initiating the Hybrid Heart recharge with one of the girls during a battle to reclaim lost ground. Instead, the manga starts with two glossy pages showing Kizuna attempting to Hybrid Heat with Aine and then moving to the scene where Kizuna flashes back to his youth. Additional content mostly consists of further insight into Kizuna's thought processes and a little extra world-building – elements most commonly cut from anime adaptations. None of the extra content adds much new insight into the story or characters, however.
The plot that follows is a standard mix of fighting girls and blatant harem elements. The basic premise for the setting is just a run-of-the-mill “random aliens attacking Earth” scenario, with the Megafloats acting as an excuse to create locales with a mix of modern and more futuristic elements. It distinguishes itself from similar ecchi premises somewhat by powering up the girls through fondling, rather than the male protagonist powering up himself or a mecha. This version of the premise has been around for years in hentai like Beat Angel Escalayer, and a variation on it can be seen in the more broadcast-friendly Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid, but it isn't an overused gimmick compared to some. However, this volume does nothing to discourage the impression that the whole Hybrid Heart process is just a lame-brained justification for a lot of groping. The story doesn't even try to pretend that there's any logical reason for things to be set up this way.
The whole “groping to recharge” thing also provides a convenient setup for a harem. The girls don't have to be personally interested in Kizuna, since his ability to power them up (and thus make them more efficient in battle) is big enough factor on its own. Naturally, the three HHG girls respond differently to this relationship. One regards the whole thing as perverted, one takes an overt liking to Kizuna, and the third is just desperate to be as powerful as possible so she refuses to let feelings of impropriety get in the way. In other words, it's a relatively standard personality distribution for a harem, and of course Kizuna is leery of being involved in this because he's a goodhearted guy. There are some suggestions of more depth and mystery to Aine, but the story doesn't get far enough in this volume to explore that much.
Played purely as an excuse for fanservice, the concept isn't bad. The main problem I have with the manga version so far is the same problem I had with the few episodes of the anime series I've seen, which is that it doesn't go far enough. All Kizuna really does is breast grabbing and some sensuous touching, and that's it. The content doesn't go as far as The Testament of Sister New Devil or High School DxD in terms of sexual explicitness, and those are its direct competition. This might have been more racy a decade ago, but with very little actual nudity, it's too restrained by current standards, especially when sexual content is its core appeal. This wouldn't be as much of a problem if the first volume was strong in any other aspect, but it's not.
Manga-ka Riku Ayakawa, whose background seems to primarily be in doujin circle works, explains in the Afterword that this is their first foray into manga adaptation/serialization. Though hardly a stellar artistic effort, it's competent enough. Riku's doujin work favors girls with huge, torpedo-like breasts, which makes Riku a good fit for this project since most of the main female characters are well-endowed. Don't expect much physical variety, and without the difference in hair color to tell them apart, two of the major female characters look too much alike. Kizuna's design is also ordinary as can be, but Riku does at least revel in the sexy pilot suits. Neither panel layouts nor action sequences are anything special. In addition to the Afterword, Yen Press's release of the volume includes a two-page bonus feature about the voice acting for the first episode of the anime and concept art for the front cover picture.
Overall, the manga version of Hybrid x Heart Magias Academy Ataraxia is merely a mediocre effort so far. It doesn't do anything to distinguish itself from the pack of ecchi manga out there.
Overall : C
Story : C
Art : B-
+ Packed with fanservice, establishes a few somewhat interesting story and character threads
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