My Heavenly Hockey Club Vol. 4 (Del Rey)

mhhc4-header.jpgTomboy Hana is a field hockey player with a big problem: she’s flunking her classes, and could be barred from playing her beloved sport forever! Can the gorgeous guys of the Grand Hockey Club help their teammate pull through?

 

 

178 pgs. b&w; $10.95

(W / A: Ai Morinaga)

 

Hana is on her school’s all-male hockey team, but it might not be for long if she’s not able to get her grades up. Luckily the team has her back; they’re determined to help Hana get the minimum average score—no matter how hard it is to get her to wake up and study! As if interrupting her sleep for school weren’t bad enough, the club also ropes Hana into helping out the team’s lovelorn twins, and then has a showdown with a finicky chicken to get the best egg in the world. With all of these bizarre adventures, will the team ever get in a match? More importantly, will Hana ever get her promised steak bento?

The cover to My Heavenly Hockey Club vol. 4 by Ai Morinaga. Click for a larger image.Having never before read a sports-themed manga, I admit to being apprehensive about My Heavenly Hockey Club. I’m very much not interested in sports, and wondered exactly how author Morinaga would play out this story. Would I be bored to death with the rules and regulations of hockey, overwhelmed to blindness by numerous slanty-lined action sequences? Would the main character be yet another ditzy/naïve "heroine" who lusts from afar over the school’s hunky sports team? In both cases, I needn’t have worried. Firstly, I forgot that shoujo trumps all, even sports in a sport-themed manga. This entire volume is dedicated to the comedic interplay between Hana and the rest of the team, and given that the team captain, Izumi, states at one point, "Listen guys, this time we really are going to have a match…We’re going for our first victory!"  I suspect that any actual sports-playing is a rarity.

As for the main female character, Hana, she too delivers much-welcomed comedic relief, and is definitely a rough-and-tumble personality. There are no banal platitudes from her, no tooth-achingly sweet commentaries on friendship or breathy pining for any of the guys on the hockey team. Instead, as Hana’s own character profile states: "She’s more interested in food than in the opposite sex. More interested in sleep than food. Hana lives for sleep." There is no mention of hockey being among her interests, and if I had to guess I would say that Izumi probably lured her to the team with the promise of food. (note: according to the amazon.com product description of vol. 1, this is true. Seriously, how did I know?!) [Actually, there was a bit of blackmail involved, too, but you can learn more about that by reading Stephanie Richardson’s review of the first two volumes, dear reader! — JG]

Morinaga continues to skewer the "traditional" character genre with the hockey club itself. Each of the boys, although bishounen-level pretty, are so stereotypical it had to have been done on purpose. In fact, if you’ve ever read Ouran High School Host Club, you’ll probably do a double-take. Izumi is the captain; impulsive and brash, he’s also terrified of ghosts and very emotional (what a combo!). Takashi appears to be the second-in-command, and with his glasses is the cool-handed-intellectual-mature persona. He is also blind as a bat and has a very special connection with animals. The kindly effeminate bishounen is Natsuki, and whenever Izumi and Hana start fighting, he’s usually able to douse the flames. Finally there are the twins, Kinta and Ginta, who seem to be the cheerleaders of the group, and unlike Ouran’s Kaoru and Hikaru they don’t seem to have any deep-seated psychological issues about their personal identities.

Morinaga’s art style is also to be commended; the irreverent and the traditional are liberally mixed in Hockey Club to create a quite enjoyable visual experience. The details are all well-done, but I must say I think I enjoy the warped renditions of characters even more. All I can say is, hooray for the attitudinal chibi chicken! (Read the manga. You’ll see.)

For all the sports fans out there, let me say that My Heavenly Hockey Club will disappoint if you’re looking for the classic team-spirit-triumphs manga. Hockey Club instead offers a fresh, zany skewering of traditional sports—and shoujo—archetypes, so if you’re looking for a good laugh, then this manga is definitely for you.| Elizabeth Schweitzer

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