Reviewby Theron Martin,
My Heavenly Hockey Club
The student body president has declared that the Hockey Club must win a match or forfeit its club space, a troubling prospect given that matches have proved difficult to arrange. When Hana seems smitten by President Ota, however, Izumi finds his motivation to succeed. . . or at least try, anyway. A love for cherries connects with a challenge received from another field hockey team, one whose lack of funding has sadly left them with what, by Izumi's standards, is an intolerably shabby level of equipment. All the sitting around and eating without practicing during the rainy season has caused all of the hockey club members to put on some weight, which inspires Izumi to temporarily turn the Hockey Club into the Judo Club, although the actual Judo Club members regard their efforts skeptically. Later, a trip to an island unexpectedly leaves Izumi and Hana alone together for the evening.
The first volume of this reverse harem series showed that manga-ka Ai Morinaga's creation could be funny despite its unimpressive premise and characterizations. Those who found the humor entertaining enough to keep reading will not regret their decisions, as the second volume offers a string of situations loaded with all sorts of comic potential. It may not be the funniest or most original thing out there, but it works, and works well. Best of all, one does not have to be an aficionado of shojo content to enjoy it.
Shojo fans can rest assured that the content does not stray far from the standard for its genre. You still have the lanky, dashingly handsome guys who are generally not very competent clustered around a female lead who has only shown the first hints of romantic inclinations, although the possibilities for romance still linger in the air and seem to be gradually building. And of course you have lots of starry-eyed Hana-blushing scenes of the kind that always seem to heavily populate shojo manga, although in Hana's case such behavior is more often than not centered on things other than guys and cuteness. Only one of the guys showing serious romantic potential for Hana is a bit unusual, as these four chapters do make it clear that this is the “Hana and Izumi Show” with the other guys just hanging around for additional flavor and background color.
Oh, the other guys do occasionally get in some very good jokes (one involving the girly-faced guy convincing an opposing hockey team that he is a guy is a classic), but Hana and Izumi fully carry the title, and fortunately they have become interesting enough characters to be able to do so. Hana's sleep and food fetishes may not seem like dynamic choices for character gimmicks, but the writing gets a lot of mileage out of exploiting them for laughs, especially once Hana reveals that her taste in men may have as much to do with how well they serve as a pillow as with any other factor. She also gets to demonstrate once again the tremendous physical prowess she has while asleep. Izumi is an even bigger delight, with his mix of macho and sissy-boy traits, his amazing ability to say and do abjectly inappropriate things, tendency to throw what weight he has around, and fickle interests. And they do look cute when (literally) sleeping together.
Morinaga's artistry has not necessarily improved since the first volume, but with this review I am reconsidering my previous evaluation of it. For what it needs to do, the artistry works quite well, with Hana even actually looking girlishly cute in some scenes. Nowhere does she look better than the fronting art for Chapter 8 (and not just because that picture shows her in a bikini top), but elsewhere when not in Drool Mode her design should sufficiently appeal to endear herself to readers. The same can be said of Izumi, who may have the typical shojo build but still manages to distinguish himself from the crowd. The appearances of other characters fall into purely stereotypical looks, but they are used well. Backgrounds, though infrequent and, also get used effectively and provide sufficient detail. Some improvement can be seen in the scene selection, which stages the content well without wasting space.
Del Rey's production provides ample translation notes, which are made necessary by the number of exotic Japanese foods referenced throughout the four chapters. It also includes an honorifics guide in the front and a six page preview of volume 3 in the back. The color cover art minimizes distracting print, and sound effects typically remain intact but include innocuous translations.
My Heavenly Hockey Club is not a manga series that anyone is likely to find involving, and it has all the depth of a wading pool. For those who seek an effective light diversion and don't mind the distinct shojo styling, though, the second volume may well fit the bill.
Overall : B
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Often quite funny.
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