Hyde and Closer Volume 1

Hyde and Closer Volume 1 by Haro Aso

How much you enjoy this manga largely depends on how amusing you find cigar-chomping, chainsaw-wielding magical fighting teddy bears. I always enjoy the juxtaposition of chainsaws and cute cuddly things, so I found this manga amusing despite the fairly unsurprising shonen storyline. The Closer in the book is Shunpei Closer who displays many of the prototypical sad-sack hero traits shown in the first volumes of almost every shonen manga. Shunpei has absolutely no self confidence. He’s bullied at school and not particularly talented at anything. But his life is about to change.

Shunpei’s beloved grandfather turns out to be the Sorcerer King of the 20th Century. Grandpa’s gone missing so now Shunpei is the target of rival magicians who want to tear out his heart and consume it in order to inherit the magic of his bloodline. The way sorcerers do battle is to send cursed stuffed animals to their enemies. Shunpei gets a delivery of a little stuffed monkey. When he turns his back on the monkey it comes after him with an exacto knife. The deranged cursed monkey informs Shunpei of his predicament. Shunpei freaks out and runs away, only to be rescued by Hyde, the teddy bear his grandfather gave him years ago. Hyde wears a fedora, swigs honey out of a shot glass, and chomps on chocolate cigars. The bear has a world-weary cynical attitude and level of care for Shunpei that is explained by his personality taking after the traits of his creator, Shunpei’s missing grandfather.

One thing I enjoyed about this manga was the character designs. The sorcerers that Shunpei battles are all very distinct, with cursed stuffed animals that reflect their personalities. Having magical battles take place through sentient stuffed animals is funny, and the contrast of the weak and sniveling Shunpei with the old-man tough-ass attitude of Hyde was amusing. In some ways Shunpei seemed almost too weak in the first volume. It is easy to see that Hyde will train him to perfect his magical abilities, but Shunpei always seems to be drenched in flop sweat or on the verge of tears. I’d probably panic too if stuffed monkeys with knives were coming after me, but it would have been nice if Shunpei’s personality was a tiny bit more nuanced.

Still, with many shonen manga titles just consisting of dudes with rippling muscles duking it out I found the idea of battle through magical stuffed animals a little refreshing. I also find Hyde as a character totally amusing. His button eyes and diagonal stitched mouth gives him an air of casual menace that is at odds with his teddy bear body. He always seems to have an evil grin on his face as he’s helping Shunpei out of magical death traps. I think that the combination of humor and vicious teddy bear battles make Hyde and Closer more entertaining than the typical shonen fighting manga.

This is a Shonen Sunday title, so you can read some of the chapters of the manga online.

Review copy provided by the publisher.