by Atsushi Suzumi; adapted by Kaya Laterman
published by Del Rey Manga; $10.95 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
Kokuyo and Harika are the only two students at the Sekiei Magic Cram School. They have one disadvantage from other magical apprentices; in order for them to manipulate magical energy, they have to use an obsidian stone. Traditionally, those who rely on such stones have never become very powerful, but each intends to become the greatest sorcerer in the world. The owner, principal, and only teacher of the school, Sekiei, believes in the potential of his two students and encourages their ambition. Rounding out the central cast is Nekome, a boy from the Torame Magic Cram School, who at first makes fun of Kokuyo and Harika until he gets a glimpse of their potential. Now, he is interested in learning more about the duo.
Haridama is a fun, light fantasy series. The appeal here is watching two underdogs beat the odds together in order to fulfill their dream. Suzumi has assembled a wonderful cast of characters. Kokuyo is the typical manga schoolboy with more enthusiasm than discipline. He likes to skip class, and the academic side of magic literally puts him to sleep. He wants to be out honing his practical skills. However, he isn’t your happy-go-lucky type, and he has a hard time shaking off the stigma of being an obsidian user. His bravado and scholastic laziness are facades used to cover up his self-doubt and fear of failure. You actually get to see him maturing by the end of this volume.
Harika, Kokuyo’s childhood friend, is the typical school girl antithesis. She’s self-disciplined, excels in all areas of study, and more calm and self-assured than Kokuyo. Often, she’s the one who has to drag him back into the classroom or forces him to hit the books. Her demeanor unknowingly exposes Kokuyo’s insecurities, which makes the interaction between the two quite lively. In the end, they both care for each other, and Suzumi makes sure that concern always comes through when they’re together.
The book flows well with a nice blend of action and character development. The setup allows Suzumi to give the reader a wealth of information about how magic works in the guise of school lessons, but the explanations are kept brief so you never feel overloaded. Most of the manga is actually Kokuyo and Harika engaged in some adventure. The fight scenes provide a chance for further revelations about the characters and their abilities. Suzumi knows how to keep the reader engaged, so you’ll find youself suddenly at the end of the book and wanting more. (Unfortunately, this appears to be only a single volume, not a series.)
I have to confess I’m a fantasy wonk. One of the things I love about fantasy books is learning how the magical system works in a given series. Suzumi has created a system that really sparks my imagination; it’s unlike any other magical world I’ve encountered. I’ll spare you the technical details, but sorcerers have some fascinating limits to what magic can be used for. This system has a lot of potential to give a new twist on the standard fantasy genre.
Suzumi’s artwork for this book is wonderful. It’s a shonen book with shojo-influenced art. This is most prevalent in the character designs and costumes. The linework is delicate, which allows for lots of details in the character faces, hair, and clothes. Suzumi does a great job showing a wide range of emotions. The art for the fight scenes is dynamic and clean. It’s easy to follow the flow of action, and you know exactly who is doing what. The few splash pages in this book are magnificent. My favorite piece is a two-page spread that really highlights the shojo influences.
Needless to say, I enjoyed this book tremendously, and I wish there was a next volume. I recommend this to anyone that enjoys a good, light fantasy series with solid characters and a provocative setting. It’s also a good book for people who want to sample the fantasy genre because Suzumi has created a very accessible fantasy realm. Heck, it’s a good book for anyone looking for well-written escapist fiction.
(The publisher provided a complimentary copy for this review.)