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One of my favorite manga is Hayate x Blade (はやて×ブレード, occasionally read as 'Hayate Cross Blade') by Hayashiya Shizuru (not mentioned in the wiki article - she's also done a lot of doujinshi under the circle name Jesus Drug). It's a shonen action/comedy with shojo-ai under(and over, and all over)tones that started serialization in Dengeki Daioh (2003-2008) and now runs in Ultra Jump, there are currently 12 volumes and 3 drama cds released in Japan (6 volumes in the US), yadda yadda boring details whatever.

The thing is, Hayate x Blade is 100% GRADE A AWESOME. And sadly, tragically obscure in English-speaking fandom.

I'd like to fix that. So! We here at Special Effex Productions are Proud to Present:

The Hayate X Blade Guide to Idiots

~The Basics~

Hayate x Blade takes place at Tenchi Academy (middle school and high school), the school girls go to when Kendo gets too tame (there are also non-fighters in attendance but I don't know why. Maybe the academics are good? Or they live locally?). It's run by Amachi Hitsugi (Student Council President, Dean, faculty director, and gloriously cracked) who's set up the Hoshitori, a system where girls pair up (as shinyuu/sword sisters) and fight other teams in order to move up in rank. The story follows several teams in their quests for vengeance, cash and ~GLORY~.

~The Details~

Pretty standard stuff, right? Sword fights, a boarding school, a dueling system, win win win lose TRAIN! FOR GLORY! win win, that's all typical of the shonen genre (don't get me wrong, I <3 stupid shonen tropes). What Hayate x Blade lacks in originality is makes up in, well. Everything else. For instance:

* There isn't a single panty shot. Not one. The girls all wear gym shorts under their skirts.

* Character's ages range from 13-17 and they look it. No overly-endowed or overly-sexualized kids here, hell, there's little-to-none visual sexualization at all.

* The cast is entirely female (with the exception of some bit players).

* The cast is entirely KICKASS.

* Every character is well developed, well characterized, with her own motivations, history, and skills. They're lovable, despicable, annoying, terrible, amazing, perverted, smart, pathetic, single minded, sneaky, cool and violent. And they're idiots, the lot of 'em.

* There are few throwaway characters - chances are if you've seen someone once you'll see them again.

* There isn't... I'm not sure how to articulate this point, but relationships interpersonal dynamics don't stagnate - if character A has a fight with character B and ends up eating lunch with character C, you'll occasionally see A and C eating lunch together even after A and B make up. Plot points and events affect things - the story dosen't automatically revert to the status quo at the end of the arc. Which is, uh. Unusual for this kind of story. I think.

* It's gay. Really, really, really gay. In a way that really should be base pandering to the Loser Fan Boy demographic but isn't, probably because of the aforementioned fabulous characterization. And also the mangaka's experience with yuri manga (Strawberry Shake Sweet <3 <3) and Sailor Moon doujinshi. There are girls who're out as lesbian, there are girls that have explicit crushes, there are girls who are super slashy. There are also girls who are friends, who are partners, and who can't stand each other, just to keep things interesting.

* Plus, it's funny - Hayashiya has a fantastic sense of timing, of slapstick, and the ridiculously absurd. And it's well written and well drawn and...

* Plus x 2, the English language version is impeccably translated and edited. The honorifics, the names, the voices, the phrasing all (as far as I can tell) transition beautifully and there's a list of words and cultural references in the back (I love it when companies do this).

* I should note: there's a lot of slapstick violence in this series of the 'character A says something stupid and character B hits them/beats them up' variety. I'm happy to handwave it but that might not be true for others, so. Fair warning.

* Moving on.

~The Characters~

Kurogane Hayate & Mudō Ayana

Our protagonists! Hayate (pink hair, middle school, first year, 13 years old) is short, energetic, and not particularly bright, Ayana (glasses, middle school, third year, 15 years old) is blunt, short tempered, and a bit of a slacker (except when it comes to duels). They're also kind (Hayate), smart (Ayana), reckless, headstrong fools <3 <3.

Hayate joined Tenchi Academy disguised as her twin sister, Nagi, who had broken her leg and was sent to rehab. Her plan was to lay low, fly under the radar, and quietly swap back out once her sister recovered. That didn't last long. Turns out the orphanage she and her sister lived at before they were adopted (coincidentally located right outside the academy) owed a lot of money to the local yakuza and the fastest way to pay them back was to win big in the Hoshitori. But for that, she'd need a sword sister.

Ayana was a 'lone wolf,' one of the rare duelers without a sword sister but unwilling to put away her blade. She'd broken with her last partner under mysterious circumstances (for us and Hayate, anyway - the rest of the school sure seems to know what's going on) and was very, very, very reluctant to take a new one. Good thing Hayate's persistent.

Together they fight for their dreams! And for money. And because Hayate doesn't know how to back down.

Sometimes they fight crime.

Inugami Isuzu & Kibi Momoka

How much do I love these two? So much! Isuzu (pigtails, middle school, first year, 13 years old) is sweet, earnest, and creepy as hell, Momoka (short hair, middle school, first year, 13 years old, Hayate's roommate) is laid back, uncomplicated, and single minded. They're both giant dorks (to be fair, everyone in this series is a giant dork).

The two things you need to know about Isuzu are 1) she's a witch (not a 'white' one, either) and 2) she has a GIGANTIC CRUSH on Momoka. An explicit, springtime of our youth, follow you where ever you go crush. Her powers are real, too (curses, scrying in her crystal ball, aura of creepy creepy creepiness), and taken for granted in an otherwise non-supernatural (and non-semimagical!fighting skills, even) manga.

Momoka's probably the cast member closest to 'normal' - she's competent but not a protegee, bleeds when she's hit in battle (although this is probably to show her GUTS and DETERMINATION), has a normal backstory, and doesn't want anything complicated. She joined Tenchi Academy intending to pair up with a senpai from her Kendo dojo but, alas, Plot Happened and she's with Isuzu instead. Chances she knows about Isuzu's feelings approach zero.

I ship them so hard you guys. SO HARD. I want them to grow up and have their own manga series where they fight demons and evil witches and ~fall in love~, it'd be so amazing.

Kuga Jun & Shizuma Yuho

Jun (long hair, middle school, third year, 15 years old, Ayana's roommate) is inappropriate and strangely self-effacing, Yuho (short hair, middle school, third year, 15 years old) is quiet, dreamy, and ~mysterious~ (only not really). They're half-sisters and have a ninja+samurai/princess+servant thing going on, much to Yuho's dismay.

You know how some (mostly gag and shonen) manga have that Perverted Lesbian trope? Where the girl is out, predatory, sexually suggestive, and it's all played for laughs and fanservice? That's Jun. Sort of. Yes, she's out, yes, she's always making suggestive comments (and she's got Hayate making them too, though I suspect Hayate's got a hazy view of this 'sex' business), yes, she's inappropriate. But she's also loyal to a fault, smart, supportive and, like I mentioned above, has some major self-worth issues.

In short (the urge to write an essay about how it might all tie in with being out at 15, overcompensating, self doubt, and also mother issues, etc, is strong here. wtf self), Jun's family has a long history of servitude to the Shizumas. It's not really a current thing, though the two families are still close (intermarriage, yo), but Jun's built a lot of her identity around taking care of, caring for, and protecting Yuho. She calls Yuho 'hime' and constantly puts down her skills in comparison to Yuho and others (Ayana, for example) she sees as being on Yuho's level.

Which Yuho hates. She loves Jun a lot, has a lot of respect for her abilities as a fighter, and doesn't want to be anywhere near the pedestal Jun's put her on.

It doesn't help that Yuho's sick - the manga doesn't say with what but I have my money on cancer (coming out of remission) - and has a habit of overworking herself.

So. Complicated relationship - check. Lots of love on both sides - check. Stereotypes subverted - checked hard. Awesome.

Amachi Hitsugi & Miyamoto Shizuku

Hitsugi (long hair, high school, second year, 17 years old) is beautiful, passionate, and totally off her rocker. Shizuku (short hair, high school, second year, 17 years old) is strong, steadfast, and also totally off her rocker (it rubbed off on her, heh). Together they are the President and Vice-President of Tenchi Academy and top dogs of the Hoshitori.

Hitsugi's the (only?) child of the ridiculously wealthy Amachi family - I'm not sure if she owns the school outright or is running it for her mother but either way her control is absolute. She started the Hoshitori because she likes interesting things and loves pushing limits; she has never (in her own words) once relied on 'facts,' preferring to trust in whim and gut instinct. It seems to have served her well so far.

Shizuku is Hitsugi's foil, support system and right-hand woman - they've been together since they were children. Shizuku is the only one able to stand up to and temper Hitsugi's more extreme tendencies (starting up a school-wide dueling system because you felt like it isn't extreme. training until you drop or working a full day with a 105F temperature is). She's also impossibly strong, fast, and would go with Hitsugi to hell and back.

These two are beautiful, crazy, EPIC, and slashy as hell. It doesn't get any better then that.

And many, many more

~The Linkage~

The Official Website

The Seven Seas page

There's one ljcomm for the series - [profile] hayatexblade. It's small and semi-active, but it exists.

You can listen to the Drama CDs on Youtube - the first half of the mini CD has even been subtitled.

Erica over on Okazu is the driving force behind HxB in English-language fandom. Check out her Hayate x Blade tag for news and reviews.

ETA 12/2/12: Here's the series page on Ao3 (with 5 whole fanworks, woo! Yes, including one by me) and FFN (21 fanworks!).

(Format=light version here)

In short, if you're looking for a fun, silly, smart, hilarious action/comedy that's female centric and has oodles of homoerotic subtext plus actual queer characters, give Hayate X Blade a try.

Date: 2010-03-17 10:07 pm (UTC)
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] branchandroot
*grins* This one sounds like a lot of fun. With the promise of no panty-shots, almost certainly a keeper. I'll have to check it out!

Date: 2010-03-17 11:27 pm (UTC)
eisen: Kururu (unexpected symphonies). (all apologies.)
From: [personal profile] eisen
No panty shots and it's an ULTRA FRICKING JUMP title?

... excuse me, I need to go sputter in disbelief some more, brb.

Date: 2010-03-18 01:26 am (UTC)
eisen: Fate&Nanoha (fly straight & fly true). (i'll take on all your demons.)
From: [personal profile] eisen
I'm mostly stunned because it has no pantyshots and it's in Ultra Jump. Of all the magazines it could be in and avoid having pantyshots added, Ultra Jump is the last I'd expect.

Date: 2010-03-18 01:00 pm (UTC)
hamimi_fk: Edward from Cowboy Bebop, smiling (Edward - Big smile)
From: [personal profile] hamimi_fk
Ack! Awesome! This is guide is awesome! I must pass this around to get my friends and others to read this series!

This is the ONLY manga series I've actually been buying (the rest are either read in the bookstore or online). ^_^ So yes, thank you for creating this guide so I can convince others to check it out and not be alone in my squeeing/shipping/fangirly-ness. (Thanks for the LJ comm too, I didn't know about it!)

Hm... Now I need a HXB icon... *wanders off to make one*

Date: 2010-03-19 01:33 am (UTC)
esmenet: Little!Anthy with swords (Default)
From: [personal profile] esmenet
This sounds excellent. All-female cast, interesting character dynamics, and no panty shots lesbians. A new fan is born.

Date: 2010-03-19 05:54 am (UTC)
pseudo_tsuga: ([Kate Beaton] squee)
From: [personal profile] pseudo_tsuga
O-omg, Strawberry Shake mangaka+fighting manga+LICENSED IN ENGLISH=Be still my heart. Thank you so much for reccing this; I had no idea it existed (and I'll buy it as soon as I have money).

and I subscribed to your journal because it seems we have a lot of the same interests and I like your linkspams. Hope that's okay!
Edited (added the second paragraph) Date: 2010-03-19 05:55 am (UTC)

Date: 2010-03-19 06:42 am (UTC)
nepenthe: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nepenthe
You know, it's stuff like this that makes me miss being able to walk five feet and steal stuff from your room, man.

Date: 2010-03-20 12:15 am (UTC)
nepenthe: (Snow)
From: [personal profile] nepenthe
Ah, yes. Of course it's out of stock. Ugh. It's five right now . . . I'll have to see how late the Phoenix library is open on a Friday night.

Nothing helps an obsession like getting others to contract it.

Date: 2010-03-19 06:46 pm (UTC)
lunarwolfik: (GG - Bookish Rory)
From: [personal profile] lunarwolfik
This looks really cool and, checking out the first one, I am thoroughly intrigued. Especially since Mudō Ayana is so very badass in it. (She can defeat three people WITHOUT EVEN USING HER SWORD. I may have drawn hearts around her at that point.)

I'm definitely gonna check this out more!

Date: 2010-05-26 05:48 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
It's good to see a fan for this series and Isuzu and Momoka (the two are awesome together).

It's because of Hayate X Blade that I am trying to learn how to read Japanese so I can read vol 7, and beyond.

Date: 2010-06-05 01:46 am (UTC)
shanejayell: (Sumika_Sasameki Koto)
From: [personal profile] shanejayell
LOVING this series. It's one of my faves. ^__^ Bought 1-6, and I am SO hoping to see Seven Seas do #7 on.

Date: 2010-06-05 07:02 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Great overview, and terrific title. Thanks for the link to Okazu and the props for Seven Seas edition (I'm the copy editor.)



Date: 2011-01-24 06:03 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I ship the Hitsugi x Shizuku so much. I adore Jun and Hitsugi. Both are such trolls.

I adore this manga as much as Strawberry Shake Sweet~

Date: 2011-01-29 04:57 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Hey comrade. Like you, I ship Hitsugi x Shizuku sooooo, soooo much it's not even funny anymore. Dear goddess of yuri, when are those 2 gonna get married?! <3

- Rabid Amachi/Miyamoto fan

Date: 2011-02-22 09:09 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I actually picked this up pretty randomly at Barnes and Noble and got quickly obsessed. Akira is amazing.

It's one of the few manga that I will both read on manga fox and buy because it's just so amazing. I ordered the omnibus but it's hard stopping myself from just buying the volumes because I dun wanna wait until late march.

But it is sad how ignored it is. ;_;

Date: 2011-07-04 06:10 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Hiya! Awesome to find more fans. I find that I just can't peddle this thing around enough. NEED....PEOPLE....TO...DISCUSS.....WITH...... Soooooo, good to know you exist!

^_^ Great write ups!




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