Otaku USA Magazine
Haridama: Magic Cram School

Publisher: Del Rey
Story and Art: Atsushi Suzumi

Haridama is one of those manga stories that I hesitate to call out for its well-tread shonen trappings. It’s like calling out an action movie for having too many explosions, or saying there’s too much romance and comedy in a romantic-comedy. The fact of the matter is, Atsushi Suzumi has the formula down pat and executes it successfully. It has a youthful protagonist on the bottom rung of his fields’ skill ladder-in this case, magic-and a close friend that shares his unique shortcomings, helping him to become stronger and surpass the obstacles set before them both.

The shortcoming in this story is the fact that both Kokuyo and Harika were born as Obsidians. This may mean nothing to you or me, but in the world of Haridama, it screams of weakness. Most magic users have the ability to channel both their yin and yang to execute powerful attacks and other spells. These two, however, must rely on a small stone in conjunction with their weapon to correct the flow that they innately lack.

This leads to a lot of heckling from other students in their school, but just like history’s great physical underachievers, Haridama’s two protagonists use this as a driving force to excel. After all, both of them share the ambition to be the world’s most powerful sorcerer, just as One Piece‘s Monkey D. Luffy, for instance, vows to be the world’s greatest pirate. On the road to excellence, Kokuyo and Harika are tested, not only by written exams that challenge their principle magic knowledge, but by an intense third-level field test that has them squaring off against a massive monster, wrestling with the odds that an Obsidian has in the first place; a chance that’s written off by everyone else as slim to none.

Atsushi Suzumi, who is probably most known for creating the series Venus Versus Virus, has a knack for these action sequences, which all tend to result in rock-smashing rumbles that leave our heroes dodging rubble while attempting to use their underpowered skills at a level beyond what anyone would expect of them. For my money, though, Suzumi’s real skill is in facial expressions, and making the more low-key scenes in the manga visually interesting. More of Suzumi’s work can be checked out here: a pretty cool site that is most likely safe for viewing at work (I haven’t had a chance to check out every picture, so be wary!).

At the end of the volume, Haridama did the last thing I expected it to: it made me want to read more. Normally stories like this go on way longer than they need to, but the short series format of this one works some Opposite Day magic on would-be eye-rollers. I’d be more than happy to check out the further adventures of Kokuyo and Harika, but as it stands, Haridama is a brief shonen tale that went to the George Costanza School of Showmanship, leaving on a high note and never looking back.