Friday, July 25, 2008

Haridama Magical Cram School by Atsushi Suzumi

Hokuyo and Harika are two students at the Seikei Magic Cram School. Harika is the daughter of the former dean and Hokuyo is the adopted son of the teacher Seikei. Unlike most sorcerors, who have both Yin and Yang magic in their bodies and can cast spells unaided. Harika and Hokuyo are known as "Obsidians", sorcerors missing one of the two types of power and in need of a piece of Obsidian to help balance out their powers. These pieces of Obsidian not only balance their powers, but if they are separated from their obsidian, they cannot be affected by spells, it seems.

After a long time apart, Hokuyo and Harika are reunited and quickly come to blows. Hokuyo challenges her to a duel, but she outsmarts him with her spells and ends up defeating him, after which she points out that one need not point a spell at someone to affect them with it. Hokuyo learns quickly, but when Harika joins him in classes, she quickly pulls ahead of him by studying, which she excels in. Hokuyo, by contrast, tends to fall asleep during lessons.

But one day, while they are arguing, they meet Nekome, heir to the Nekome Cram School. When Hokuyo challenges him to a duel, Harika is forced to intervene. However, Hokuyo later collapses in class. They discover this is due to the effect of a creature called a Moon Beetle, which tends to attach itself to sorcerors and drain a tiny bit of their magic. Draining as much as was drained out of Hokuyo is unusual. Then, Hokuyo has a dream about the Moon Beetles, and their Queen, Maya, who is due to be hatched soon.

He follows the beetle into the Magic Forest near the school, and Harika follows him. There, they find Nekome, who also had the same dream. They trail the beetle to a cave, where they discover Queen Maya's cocoon is being held prisoner by a horrible lizard, and after Nekome fails to defeat it with his magic, Harika and Hokuyo must join up to defeat the monster and free Queen Maya's cocoon so that it can finally hatch.

Nekomo's father asks his son if he was the one to defeat the lizard, and Nekomo can't lie, whereupon his father said he once dismissed the two Obsidians. Looks like he can't do that any more.

Finally, after many months of study, Harika and Hokuyo are deemed ready for their third-level sorceror exams. But the students from Torame Cram School have decided to make things harder for Harika and Hokuyo. But when a huge monster is unleashed on the testing facility, can Harika and Hokuyo find a way to join their magic and defeat it?

This manga doesn't know a single thing about slow starts, throwing the characters, and by extension, the readers, into the story. However, this is one story that I can't tell if it is supposed to be a single volume or not, since the story is so open-ended. Despite its small size, a lot of story is packed into these pages, and honestly, I would like to see the further adventures of Harika and Hokuyo.

The character designs are standard cute, and remind me a bit of CLAMP in the character designs, with a bit of Naruto-style thrown in. The story, with its explanation of magery/sorcery, and the bit about how the two leads are able to combine their powers to do more, is intriguing. I have never seen a manga story quite like it before, and it is refreshing.

That said, Hokuyo does remind me a lot of Naruto, with a strong desire to succeed. But neither lead dominates the story. I am disappointed, but resigned to the fact that Hokuyo ends up being the one to do most of the monster beat-downs, leaving Harika to be less effective at combat magic for the most part. She does get some chances to shine, so I hope Harika will not fade into the background in later volumes (if there are any).

I am interested in seeing more, and that's the best indicator of success in manga. An intriguing story with refreshing ideas, but mostly stock characters that ends up placing it in the higher middle rank of manga. I'll be looking forwards to more.

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