Rave Master Manga
A Shonen manga known for its goofy sense of humor as well as its action scenes, "Rave Master" by Hiro Mashima indulges in many of the cliches and tropes that permeate the "young boy's action" genre, and comes off as campy, but endearing.
Rave Master follows the exploits of Haru Glory, a standard "wayward teenager called to a life of adventure and heroism" protagonist. When Haru's island is attacked by the villainous organization "Demon Card", who seeks to conquer the world using the power of the magical "Dark Bring" artifacts, Haru takes up the mantle of the "Rave Master" from an old man visiting the village and fights them off. His mission then becomes to travel the world collecting the pieces of "Rave" to defeat Demon Card once and for all. As you can probably tell, Rave Master has a basic, "Mad-Libs" style plot. A lot of the names are in weird half-English, or named after styles of music, which makes them difficult to take seriously. In most ways, though, it's the standard "young boy and friends fight off evil organization trying to rule the world" setup.
Rave Master has an undeniably goofy sense of humor. It's the kind of stuff that might appeal to 10-year-olds: poop humor, jiggling butts, and so on. The action scenes are generally over-the-top, but at least diverse enough to be interesting. Haru's sword has ten different forms, so unlike a lot of protagonists he at least has some options. In addition, his allies generally have more free-form powers, like "Musica", who has the power to shape silver. The lead female, Elie, starts out as a spunky fighter, but quickly finds herself demoted to a non-combatant, which is disappointing. Enemies rely on the power of the "Dark Bring", which usually has one specific ability. These abilities vary in power and function, so the fights are generally fairly creative as enemies find ways to use the environment to their advantage. Like a lot of combat-heavy mangas, though, there are arcs that turn into a giant string of fight scenes, and these can get boring fairly quickly.
The art style is kind of simplistic. It's not bad, and it's certainly distinct, but there's not a lot of details except in the obvious areas of Mashima's interest (fashion and wacky costumes). The fight scenes are reasonably exciting, but sometimes cluttered and hard to understand. Despite it's simple and lighthearted start, Rave Master tries to take a turn for the dramatic at some points. This works to varying effect - it's generally hard to take it seriously when you remember how crazy everything else is. It never becomes incredibly grim or anything, but it does take a stab at tension now and again. The story sort of loses steam after the first ten books, due to a shift in objectives. It feels like it should have ended at a lot of points, but there's enough left unanswered to keep the series going and for new villains to pop up.
Rave Master is a fun manga for kids and young adults. It's not serious fare, and it's not too dark or scary despite being centered around fighting. The art and pacing have some problems, but for a reader willing to overlook that it's an adventure worth reading.
Purchased at Waldenbooks.
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