Review by: Clive Owen
Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Haro Aso
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shonen Sunday)
MSRP: $9.99 US
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date: Now Available
There’s nothing cuddly about this teddy and his chainsaw.
I have to admit that I really enjoy offbeat shonen titles like Hyde & Closer and more so when one of the characters happens to be something completely unexpected … like a gutsy chainsaw-wielding teddy bear. So you can bet I was really excited to reviews Volume 1 of Hyde & Closer … a new manga series that actually shows some promise if you like offbeat manga as well.
The very first page that Shunpei Closer appears you know exactly what to expect from the guy who quickly shows us that he isn’t much of anything. He’s the jittery sort of fellow who would much rather fake an injury than attempt to take a swing when he’s up at bat during a baseball game. In short, Shunpei is a complete wimp and the butt of all jokes in his classroom.
Interestingly enough, Shunpei happens to be the grandson of a real man’s man named Alsyd Closer who tells his grandson – when Shunpei was much younger – that he should forge his own path. He also gives the boy a cool-looking teddy bear his grandfather called Hyde with button eyes and sporting a fedora. Not soon after that, his grandfather disappeared during one of his trips abroad. Six years have passed since his grandfather’s disappearance and Shunpei is now in middle school but his life is about to get even more interesting.
After a strange fellow posing as a delivery man hands him a package, the contents – a stuffed monkey – comes to life and attacks Shunpei. However, just as the cowardly boy is about to get killed by the doll, his own stuffed teddy bear comes to life to face the monkey. Hyde turns out to be a tough little bear who is ready to fight and defend Shunpei who is both frightened and confused. As Hyde battles the cursed stuffed animal, he explains that Alsyd Closer – Shunpei’s grandfather – is actually the King of the Sorcerers. Using his magic, Alsyd brought Hyde to life to protect his grandson.
Oh, there’s more as Hyde gets Shunpei to man up and pull down the zipper on his back to pull out Hyde’s magical weapon … a huge Texas Chainsaw! The battle between stuffed animals is something to behold and, in the end, the stuffed monkey is defeated. However, the real surprise comes from Hyde who tells Shunpei that sorcerers will be coming after him to devour the boy’s beating heart to obtain Alsyd’s true power. It is Hyde who will protect the boy and hopefully teach him magic.
Shunpei searches his memories and recalls a spell his grandfather taught him that creates a protective barrier around objects the spell caster tosses around him. This is good since another sorcerer, this one a talented Russian sorcerer, sends a present to Shunpei in his classroom. When he opens it, what pops out is a crazy jack-in-the-box who is a far more effective opponent than the stuffed monkey. This foe seems to pop out of any opening.
Thankfully, he now carries Hyde with him and the dangerous teddy joins Shunpei in battle. Much like the first battle, Shunpei manages to man up again and this time uses when he learned from his grandfather but, on top of that, he also manages to come up with a plan to help Hyde defeat the cursed toy.
Also like the first battle, Shunpei learns that once he manages to defeat a cursed object the broken curse returns to its caster in a negative way. In this case, Shunpei and Hyde find the Russian sorcerer suffering from appendicitis among other ailments that put him in the hospital. When they pay the man a visit, they learn that there are more than a thousand inexperienced sorcerers after Shunpei and six masters of their craft waiting in the wings.
In the final chapter, another sorcerer surfaces who happens to be a young man who has a rather creepy obsession with a doll. As it turns out, this young man happens to be a sorcerer who also goes to Shunpei’s school as one of the more popular boys that all the girls want to date. The young sorcerer sends his doll’s hair to strangle the life out of Shunpei who once again finds himself in another fight.
There’s a surprising outcome in this battle as we learn about this boy named Shindo and his doll named Tomiko through memories the young man has of how he got the doll. Shunpei realizes there’s more to their relationship as Shindo will do anything to protect Tomiko and the doll means to protect Shindo. The chapter is one of the more enjoyable ones, actually.
As far as the rest of the volume is concerned, Hyde & Closer has plenty of comical moments and Hyde is a delightful character who brings to mind The X-Men’s Wolverine. Shunpei, on the other hand, is a complete wimp but at least he isn’t annoying.
Volume 1 of Hyde & Closer doesn’t reveal all its cards so it’s a little too early to tell how this series will evolve but what we see shows some potential. The characters are actually likeable as well and Hyde is a teddy you seriously do not want to mess with so here’s hoping this tag team will show up what they’re made of when more sorcerers come knocking in the next volumes. We are definitely giving this one a chance by sticking with it.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Shunpei Closer is they kind of kid being happy to be just average despite the fact that his grandfather actually turns out to be not only the manliest man on the planet but also a powerful sorcerer. When his grandfather goes missing, however, every sorcerer will stop at nothing to obtain the older Closer’s power from his wimpy grandson. Fortunately for Shunpei, he has a guardian in the form of a tough chainsaw-wielding teddy bear named Hyde.
Haro Aso’s art is actually quite easy on the eyes albeit familiar since it’s clear his influences are “One Piece” author Eiichiro Oda as well as “Muhyo & Roji’s Bureau of Supernatural Investigation” author Yoshiyuki Nishi as well. It’s not a bad thing, really, but if you’re expecting something really original you will be disappointed.
A promising title with plenty of good things going for it, Volume 1 of Hyde & Closer delivers a shonen title that might actually turn out to be a series worth following. While it’s too early to tell where this story will take us, the characters and the possibilities will have us following to see where this tale will take us. Plus, who can say no to a teddy bear with a chainsaw?
Review copy provided by VIZ Media