Sae is a beautiful, young woman attending high school, but because of her serious, aloof personality, she has never had much interaction with boys. She does want to experience love and actively practices talking with boys in the mirror, but so far she has had no luck. Then, a fairy suddenly appears in her life and gives her a magical egg.
The egg presents Sae with a number of romantic challenges on tight deadlines, which she has to complete or else the egg will break. Panicked by the initial challenge to hug a boy, she quite literally has a run-in with a classmate called Honda and ends up completing the first challenge on him. Hadi Girl ended up being a damn fine romance story that I struggled to put away. Watching Sae struggle to overcome her embarrassment for the sake of the challenges or sneakily trying to cheat them endeared both her and Honda to me. There is also some competition, as a younger girl who is more direct about her feelings is also openly trying to become Honda’s girlfriend, which has a big impact on the shy, mild-mannered Sae.
The egg’s challenges are a fun twist on what is otherwise a fairly normal romance story with adorable characters. I couldn’t help but grin like an idiot while reading through some of the best chapters, so this one comes highly recommended.
Haikei Date Masamune-sama/Dear Masamune Date
If you aren’t here for romance manga then you might want to scroll on ahead a bit. I ended up getting a bunch of these this time around and most of them were very worth talking about.
Tamaru Aki is a student at an all-girls school with a deep fascination for history and the Sengoku-era general Date Masamune. When she is one day accosted by a group of delinquents, she is saved by Hashiba Masaki, a local thug from the all-boys school next door. As faith would have it, his mannerisms and eyepatch remind her of Date Masamune and she falls in love, even though Hashiba thinks she is weird and tries to avoid her.
Character development is mostly directed towards Hashiba, who begins to grow fond of Aki, but also knows that rival gangs and disgruntled thugs will try to use her against him. Aki herself is a fun character, but her unmoving determination to get this romance working does leave her a little shallow. It has a bit of comedy, a bit of action, it’s pretty good for a short romance story, but nothing special compared to some other series on today’s list.
Similar to the manga above, this one also stars a girl who attends an all-girls school, but whereas Tamaru Aki is perfectly fine with boys, Haji-Otsu‘s Ashihara Himari can’t stand them at all. She can’t look at boys, she can’t speak to them, and if any come near her she is likely to immediately flee.
In a bid to conquer her fear of men, she ends up confessing her love to the only boy she knows: a guy from her street who returned a dropped keychain to her once. Utterly flustered, he accepts just moments before Himari has a chance to leg it. Haji-Otsu is a romantic comedy that chronicles the developing love between Himari and her first boyfriend, Kai, starting with her actually having to learn to talk and look at him. Both she and Kai are very inexperienced and thus call on the aid of their classmates, but the quality of their advice varies heavily.
Haji-Otsu is reliably cute and funny, with two lead characters that are both endearing. It makes you want to see Himari overcome her fear and it’s interesting to see how Kai attempts to help her, despite his own inexperience. However, there is also the underlying guilt that Himari feels over the fact that she only confessed to combat her fears, and she doesn’t know if she actually does have feelings for Kai or not. Her sense of guilt grows worse the longer the story goes on and introduces some solid drama into the mix as well. This one is another recommendation.
Hajimete Datteba is a perfect 5/10 specimen. A manga that does a few things kind of well, but most of it is quite weak, yet also not so bad that it’s devoid of value. I am just wondering what type of person would appreciate this manga for what it is.
The story follows Tagaki, the baseball ace of his high school sports team and an intelligent, serious fellow. One day he confesses his love to Kana, and that is the point where I started doubting his decision making. Kana is a bad student, a sore loser, she is overly aggressive, and she’s not even good at her own sport. And rather than have the story be about a character arc showing her improve, author Kaori Saki just suddenly stops addressing these sides of her and turns her into a bland, genki girl after the first few chapters.
I do like how the story develops, as it begins to chronicle the budding romance of several couples all looking to have their first sexual experiences with each other, but the process of getting there is a questionable one. The boys, Takagi included, honestly just throw themselves at their girlfriends and don’t take no for an answer. It’s played for comedic effect, but this also includes an older man blatantly preying on an underage relative and the story paints this as the absolute right way to go in every one of its romances, which I found utterly creepy to read through.
Himegami is set in a period of Japanese history where Western powers are becoming increasingly present on Japan’s shores. In a tiny coastal city, the local police are frustrated with a series of murders targeting foreign traders, missionaries, and their underlings, particularly because their consulates strong-arm the police into letting them handle the cases.
These murders are the work of 15-year-old Hyou, the female daughter of a Shinsengumi hero who perished in combat. Hyou operates from a local brothel and targets these foreigners because they are all looking for a magical artifact and their agents are all secretly Demons. During the day she is a bodyguard for the girls working their charms, but at night she dons an ill-fitting armor and hunts the demons. Himegami is an okay action romp that has the ever-popular dynamic of pitting traditional Samurai arts (mixed with some mysticism) against Western imperialists who use guns and other modern technology.
The plot is actually pretty interesting and has some good character moments, but it can also be terrifyingly wordy with lengthy exposition that digs into the lore and name-drops people and folklore that can be hard to keep track off. You also need to be in the mood for it, because most of the girls in this action story wear full fishnet outfits with little plates of armor. It’s heavy on fan-service, which is a bit strange because the prostitution-driven town already offered plenty of excuses for nudity and busty girls, without having to also bog down the action scenes with the stuff.
Half & Half
Yuuki Sanada is a young woman who one day commits suicide by jumping off a building. By pure chance, she ends up landing on a hapless bystander, college student Shinichi Nakagawa, and both die. However, God sends the two of them back with a task. They have to sort out between themselves which of the two will truly die, with the literal deadline being 7 days.
Until then, Yuuki and Shinichi have to share everything. They can’t be more than a few steps away from each other and their senses are linked. The two feel each other’s emotions and their physical pain, so killing the other is not an option. The manga follows these two as they move in together in Shinichi’s dingy apartment and slowly learn more about the life of the other. It starts off as two hostile strangers attempting to coerce each other, but with precious little time left alive, they also have to spend time together as they both make amends and take care of lingering regrets.
I didn’t have the greatest expectations for Half & Half because I tend not to like drama much, but this was an interesting read with a lot of heart put into it. It’s beautifully illustrated and it’s a novel idea that must have really tested author Kouji Seo’s ability to fit as much personality and development into a short timeframe as possible. Weird to think that this is the same man who’d later go on to pen the absolutely horrendous Fuuka.
Sometimes life gives you lemons, sometimes you end up reading a borderline hentai manga on the 6AM train to work. What can you do?
Hammer Maid is a curious example because its rampant sex scenes make it hard to see it as anything but a random hentai manga, but at the same time, its pretensions towards a greater story mean entire chapters are basically worthless for its target audience. Okada Keiichi is enjoying his life after recently getting a girlfriend, but things turn awkward when she suggests the two of them go to a pool together and Keiichi has to admit that childhood trauma has left him afraid of water.
However, a swimming instructress at the gym seems to know Keiichi and takes him under her wing in an attempt to cure his phobia. However, Keiichi quickly reveals himself to be more interested in putting his own little swimmer in every girl at the gym, which is kind of my point. You don’t really question characters in hentai manga, but once you try to have a storyline about overcoming personal trauma, taking time out of that to screw the ditzy girl in the kiddie pool… it just gets all kind of weird. Just skip it and read a proper hentai or something.
Hamster Research Report
Okay, something entirely else. We need some wholesomeness here!
Hamster Research Report is a silly 4-koma manga about the author’s experiences of handling hamsters. It offers fun stories about their various hamster buddies and also offers advice on how you can keep hamsters yourself.
I have had various hamsters for years and it was absolutely delightful to read about the writer’s silly furballs. It’s very relatable and still thought me a few things I didn’t know about these creatures. I do recommend it for seasoned hamster owbers, because it’s better enjoyed for its loving stories than used as an actual education tool.
Hanakaku – The Last Girl Standing
Ando Hanaka is a small, frail girl who suffered a lot of bullying throughout middle school. She decides that she wants to toughen up, but keeps dropping out of all the sports-related clubs at school because she is too weak. Just when she is about to give up, she is rescued from a dangerous situation by a schoolmate who then introduces her to the world of female MMA fighting.
Ando joins her savior’s gym and starts training to improve her confidence and eventually compete in actual matches. Hanakaku offers exactly what I want out of a sports manga: the art is impactful and energetic, the characters passionate, and it has compelling villains for Ando and her friends to overcome. Watching these girls fight each other for titles, fame, and self-accomplishment was a great experience.
Manga like this are exactly the reason I started doing these mini-review series. If you enjoy MMA or, like myself, want to step outside your comfort zone from time to time, then do give this one a go.
We are going to need to turn this batch into a 2-parter, but let’s end this one on a bit of contrast with another sports manga. Hand’s is about a fiery young boy whose father is piling up insurmountable debt. One day, Yakuza goons show up to collect their money, but dear, old dad is nowhere to be found and the boy has to flee his home.
After being abandoned, the kid moves in with friends of the family and ends up discovering a newfound passion for handball, which is just about the point where the story ends. It’s only 10 chapters long and has the appearance of a story that was suddenly canceled, but allowed to end gracefully. It spends so many of its earlier chapters just on the boy evading the yakuza and eventually deciding to take up handball, that the actual sport only gets about 3 chapters to conclude the story on.
It goes through the effort to introduce a bunch of team-members that never get a scene again and the female lead never even takes the field at all. The slow opening suggests the author was hoping to have a long-running shounen series on his hands here and, to be fair, the actual handball segments are pretty fun. Perhaps with a stronger opening, it could have actually succeeded.