Through junior high, high school, and early college, I was an otaku. That phrase itself dates me, as I believe the acceptable term today is “weeaboo.” The point being, for a long while I was an anime and manga fan, and was probably pretty obnoxious about it.
Being an anime geek when I was growing up wasn’t like it is today. You couldn’t go down to FYE and buy a DVD of your favorite show, and Netflix didn’t exist, so you bought box sets from eBay with your parents’ credit card. If you wanted merchandise – a t-shirt, a plushie – you were probably out of luck, unless you were looking for pokémon.
If you went to my school, there were a few rules you had to follow. You had to hide your nerdiness away. That meant you didn’t hang up pictures of your favorite anime characters in your locker, you didn’t talk about your favorite shows to people who weren’t otaku, and you definitely didn’t bring your manga to school. Naturally, I broke all these rules. When you’re so unpopular most of your classmates don’t bother to register your existence, you haven’t got much to lose.
So it was in eighth grade, the worst time of anyone’s life, when I discovered manga. The second volume of Rave Master was one of the first mangas I ever owned, and I remember loving the series. My older sister read it as well, but declared that it was dumb. More than a decade later, I’ve started re-reading it to determine who was right.
I never actually owned the first volume of Rave Master, but I remember it well enough. It starts with our hero, Haru, living with his older sister on a small island. Haru is an orphan because of course he is. While fishing one day, Haru catches a creature named Plue, which looks like a snowman with four legs, though is frequently referred to as a dog. Plue is the bearer of Rave, a magical stone that was broken into pieces at the end of a war to stop something called the Overdrive, or a really large explosion.
Plue is shortly joined by Shiba, an old man with a spike on his head. The spike really bothered me, until I realized it was a tuft of hair that made him resemble a unicorn.
Shiba, it turns out, is the current Rave Master. That is, the only person who can use the Rave stones. With Shiba also comes Demon Card, the evil organization that’s searching for Rave. Eventually, it’s discovered that Haru is the new Rave Master, and now he must find all the pieces of Rave and defeat Demon Card. Because we can’t have a manga series starring an old man now, could we? That would be ridiculous!
Near the end of the book, the Ten Powers sword breaks, and Haru leaves his island to find Musica, the blacksmith that first forged the sword, to repair it. Haru and Plue set sail for the seas of adventure, and that’s where the first volume ends.
Got all that? Good.
Dusting off the second book, I realized that the art wasn’t as good as I remember. Certainly, it’s much better than I could do, but the characters’ necks just look way too thin to support their heads. Or is that just part of the anime style of art that I’ve forgotten about? Of course, I shouldn’t be too harsh when the characters from my all-time favorite manga, Dragon Knights, look like this:
Huckleberry Finn Haru and Plue land in Hip Hop Town, and I really like the weird world that the manga-ka, Hiro Mashima, has built for us. The panels can be a bit cluttered because there’s a lot going on, and Mashima’s slipped small background events in. I also want to point out these guys:
The sun and moon, to show time passing. I completely forgot they were in the manga, but I thought they were hilarious as a kid and I love them now. Don’t ask me why.
After getting on shore, Plue promptly gets kidnapped. After a thrilling two pages of Haru searching around town, he finds Plue has been entered into dog races, which are a pretty big deal in town. Okay, I can go with it. What I cannot get past is why someone would actually think that Plue is (a) a dog, and (b) would be any good in a race. This is what the racing dogs look like:
This is Plue.
Plue gets taken off the track for being the worst racing dog ever, and Haru interrupts the race and comes to his rescue, in a mad dash for the arena that would make Legolas proud. I still can’t decide if using non-skateboard things as a skateboard is amazing or stupid. I’m probably going to go with stupid.
Haru beats up some mooks causes enough commotion that the head of the dog racing rink finally appears, who is…*gasp* a member of Demon Card!! So here we have Monster of the Week #1, Georco. Thus ends chapter 5 of Rave Master.
It wasn’t that good. I did like that Haru got completely lost in Hip Hop Town while looking for Plue, which is what I would expect from someone visiting a large city for the first time. There’s some world building already, and it’s pretty fast-paced so far, so it’s easy to keep my attention. Right now I kind of find Haru loud and obnoxious, but maybe that’s because the only character he’s interacted with thus far (that he wasn’t beating up) is some kind of animal that doesn’t talk.
Speaking of Haru beating up mooks, where did he learn how to fight? For a sixteen-year-old kid from a small, peaceful town, he sure knows how to throw a punch. By the time Georco shows up, he’s already taken down about ten other people. As a kid, that seemed perfectly acceptable to me. As an adult, I realize that it’s completely ridiculous unless Haru got a blackbelt before the series started.
Geez, all these things you don’t think of when you’re reading something for the first time.