Haru Glory is a boy who lives with his sister, Cattleya, in Garage Island. After fishing out a strange little beast by the name of Plue, he meets Shiba, who entrusts him with a Rave Stone known as Holy Bring. From there on, he embarks on a quest like his father, who went to find Rave 15 years ago. On his travels he meets Elie, a girl who loves to gamble but has lost her memory. They met up with fearsome gang member Musica, who becomes part of their slowly-increasing crew. They have to eliminate Demon Card using their own talents and abilities. Together they find out the mysteries of their past, discover the connection between Ethelion and Rave and attempt to save the world from those with the power and intent to destroy it.
The first attempt of manga-ka Hiro Mashima of Fairy Tail fame to write an epic tale of myth and magic. Clearly Rave Master was his sounding board for ideas that enabled him to eventually pull ideas and plot lines together for Fairy Tail. The first thing I discovered whilst reading Rave Master was that things took a long time to happen. A really long time. There are so many chapters full of needless exposition and odd side stories that the pace completely ground to a halt before it even had a chance to take off. For starters, there is so much dialogue that, when translated, it can barely fit within the speech bubbles the author has drawn out. This really bogs down the action scenes and makes it feel like the majority of the time the characters are just stood around talking – occasionally broken up by some new characters, weapon or attack with a truly bizarre name.
Which leads me onto the second thing that I thought about Rave Master – the lack of creativity and inspiration when it comes to names of people, places or weapons. We have an explosive sword named ‘Explosion’, islands and cities tediously named after dance-related phrases and a group of people actually called ‘The Jiggle Butt Gang’ (who seemed, weirdly, to make it into some Fairy Tail filler – which I can barely believe). All of this contributed to removing any credulity that was to be gained from reading this series.
The fight scenes however, when they finally do happen, are quite decent. When I finally managed to overlook the dumb names flying around. The idea that Haru wields one sword that is actually seven swords is interesting and the big battles against the various antagonists are great when they finally get going. If only they weren’t few and far between an full of silly ‘travelling banter’ where the gang are on an airship or something similar and just putting us through the usual tedium.
When things were actually happening and the main characters are being used to their full potential, you can appreciate how unique and interesting they are not only personality-wise, but in character. I particularly love all the revelations surrounding Elie and I feel that she is the character with the most layers. When it comes to female protagonists in manga, I usually find that they are often not my favourite and much prefer a supporting character: Erza over Lucy, Orihime over Rukia and Hinata over Sakura, but I generally liked and rooted for Elie from the beginning.
There are some romantic aspects with the relationship of Haru and Elie on a very, very slow burn. Though I appreciate that this is a shounen manga and so romance isn’t exactly something that makes it to the forefront regularly these kind of scenes are generally done well. Instead of having intense staring competitions with one another and audible heart beats we actually see their bond growing by the things they do for one another, and how they support and protect each other. As for supporting characters – there’s quite an army of them which means they aren’t usually well-developed at all in comparison to the core cast. Characters are mostly put into two boxes: good and bad and that’s pretty much the end of it, though the ‘bad’ characters do tend to have traumatic and compelling backstories that somewhat justify the things that they have done (I’m particularly thinking of King when I type this) rather than just being generic antagonists.
The artwork really suffers in this story, particularly at the beginning. Character faces and expressions are dreadfully inconsistent and some of the landscapes and artwork seems noticeably rushed and unattractive, particularly at the beginning. If you stick with it, things gradually get better but never really great. The artwork is reminiscent of a less successful version of One Piece, meaning that this style works well for comedy and when the characters are gearing up for fight scenes but falls short at all the other points on the emotional spectrum, meaning that significant scenes often seems rather flat and pointless. You know you’re meant to feel something, but you’re not sure what because it feels like something’s missing from the overall package.
If you’re looking for a rip-roaring shounen manga, Rave Master wouldn’t exactly make it into my list of recommendations. However, if you’ve already read all of the following: Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Fairy Tail, Full Metal Alchemist, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Soul Eater and HunterxHunter you might want to consider giving this one a go. It’s a bit of a slow-burner, so you’ll have to have some patience. There’s a reason that Fairy Tail is Mashima’s popular work and not Rave Master.