Sunday, November 9, 2008

My Heavenly Hockey Club (manga, vol. 5) by Ai Morinaga

Contrary to what the title may lead you to believe, this series doesn't actually have much hockey in it, although the club actually does play in a match in this volume.

This volume (and others) is made up of several fairly self-contained stories. In the first one, Hana and the other members of the hockey club all stay at Hana's friend's inn. Hana doesn't realize it and doesn't believe it when Izumi tries to tell her, but Hana's friend has designs on her body. Izumi becomes determined to thwart him, but that may be harder than he realizes.

In the second story, Hana's cousin Mei, an elementary school-aged girl with the figure and clothing tastes of someone several years older, arrives and asks for Hana's help. Mei is determined to land a rich boyfriend, and she heard Hana's hockey club was full of rich guys. Mei focuses her sights on Takashi, who is appalled by her appearance and repeatedly tells her to dress and act her age.

In the third story, Natsuki's father, who dresses like a pirate and hunts for treasure, challenges Natsuki and the rest of the hockey club to a game of hockey - if they lose, Natsuki has to join him on his ship and hunt for treasure with him. Although the team practices hard (for maybe the first time ever...), they may still end up losing. Fortunately, Natsuki can be pretty crafty and ruthless when he wants to be. By the way, Natsuki's mom also appears in this story, and she and Natsuki are scarily alike.

In the fourth and last story of the volume, the hockey club ends up stuck on a small island and tries to save a beautiful farmer without the help of their vast hordes of money (all the better to be near her longer). She needs to pay a debt collector 10 million yen (about $100,000) or she'll lose her farm.

Like I mentioned before, this series isn't at all about hockey. It's more of a comedy with occasional romantic moments, if you can call them that (Hana is so oblivious and uninterested in romance that I doubt anything is ever going to happen between her and Izumi). Even though my descriptions of the stories didn't really get it across, all of the stories in this volume are funny in some way - there's no added layer of drama to darken things up. In the first story, I found Hana's friend kind of... icky, but I knew that there was no way he was ever going to get anywhere with her, so it was fun watching him try. I think the second story was my favorite of the volume, something of a guilty pleasure for me - while Mei's style of dress was horrifying, considering her age, Takashi is my favorite character, and I couldn't help but laugh seeing him almost burst a blood vessel in outrage.

The third story was also really funny - I have to say, however pretty his face happens to be, I now believe that Natsuki is the scariest member of the hockey club when he wants to be. The fourth story was maybe the least funny one of the entire volume - it also turned out to be a surprise romantic story (I'll just give it away - the debt collector and the farmer end up together). Although I didn't find the fourth story particularly interesting, I still liked it, for completely shallow reasons - for some reason, Gen, the debt collector, reminded me of Cowboy Bebop (even if he did have an annoying habit of saying "y'all" at every single instance others would say "you" - for example, "What're y'all crying for?" when speaking to the tearful farmer). I think it was something about his character design.

Overall, this volume was a fun read - it's what I'd call "brain candy." It's not a very original series, but, if it still manages to be enjoyable, who cares? As far as extras go, there are character profiles for Natsuki, Kinta, and Ginta, five pages of translator's notes, and an untranslated preview of the next volume of the series.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Beauty Pop (manga) by Kiyoko Arai - In Kiri's school, there's a team of three guys who transform random girls by doing their hair, make-up, nails, etc. It's said that any girl they make over is guaranteed to get a date with whoever she has a crush on. Kiri is also a master hairstylist, but she prefers to work anonymously, and she's more willing than the guys to help out girls who aren't already good-looking to begin with. Kiri usually acts pretty apathetic, but she's got a soft heart and can be persuaded to use her skills to improve people's self-esteem. Kiri, like Hana, doesn't seem to really be interested in guys, despite the fact that at least one guy does appear to be interested in her. Those who'd like another series involving an apathetic and romantically dense girl and a goofy/cool guy who likes her but won't admit it might like this manga. For those of you who like "guys with glasses" characters like Takashi, this series has Ochiai, who also happens to be similar to Takashi in terms of personality.
  • The Wallflower (manga) by Tomoko Hayakawa - When Sunako finally gathered up the courage to tell the boy she liked how she felt about him, he crushed her by telling her that he doesn't like ugly people. Ever since then, Sunako has surrounded herself with dark and scary things and stopped putting any effort into how she looks. She watches bloody horror movies, she's ghostly pale and dresses in dark clothing, and her room is filled with skulls, coffins, and other gruesome things. She lives alone in her aunt's house, which, unfortunately for her, is invaded by four beautiful guys who were promised free rent by her aunt if they could only turn Sunako into a lady. Those who'd like another story involving a girl who doesn't notice the potential for romance between her and one of the guys around her, as well as a story involving a girl constantly surrounded by hot guys, might want to try this manga. There is also an anime version, which I have not yet seen.
  • Ouran High School Host Club (manga) by Bisco Hatori; Ouran High School Host Club (anime TV series) - Haruhi, the only scholarship student at an elite school for the rich, is forced to become a host in the Ouran High School Host Club after breaking an expensive vase. Unfortunately, Haruhi is actually a girl - in order to stay in the host club and pay off her debt, Haruhi must make sure that no one outside the host club finds out that she's not a guy. Those who'd like another story starring a bunch of hot, filthy rich guys might like this series. Personally, I prefer the anime over the manga, but they're both good. Like My Heavenly Hockey Club, this is another humorous series in which there's the potential for romance, but the main female character is too oblivious for anything to really happen. For those of you who like "guys with glasses" characters like Takashi, this series has Kyouya, who also happens to be similar to Takashi in terms of personality.
  • Sokora Refugees (U.S. manga) by Segamu (story) and Melissa DeJesus (art) - if you liked the 2nd story with Mei, you might enjoy at least the first volume of this series, in which the main character magically gets transformed from a flat-chested girl into a large-breasted girl whose clothes don't fit anymore. Like My Heavenly Hockey Club, this series has lots of humor, but readers should also be prepared for a strong fantasy storyline.

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