Magical, killer teddy bears
Up-and-coming artist Haro Aso was doing OK publishing one-shot stories, but wasn’t having much luck coming up with an idea for a serialized adventure. His editor mad the suggestions “Why not show cute stuffed animals fighting with each other?” And thus “Hyde and Closer” was born.
The story follows middle-schooler Shunpei Closer, a below-average kid who gets picked on at school and is a total wimp. Shunpei (usually called by his last name Closer) lives in awe of his grandfather, a long-haired fedora-wearing man’s man who travels the world seeking adventure and tries to teach Shunpei how to be a man in his brief visits home. (“A man has to forge his own path.” “Remember, real men only drink bourbon.”) Shunpei has one treasured possession from his grandfather; a stuffed bear named Hyde that has button eyes and the same fedora hat as his grandfather.
Shunpei’s life takes a major turn when his grandfather fails to return from his latest trip to Africa, and Shunpei under attack by a stuffed monkey delivered by a man who is decorated with skulls. Amazingly, Hyde springs to life to protect Shunpei, and his grandfather’s secret is revealed. Shunpei’s grandfather was a powerful sorcerer who has since died, and now six other sorcerers seek to gain his power by eating the still-beating heart of the grandfather’s direct descendant, Shunpei. The grandfather left behind Hyde to protect Shunpei in just this eventuality, but if he is going to survive Shunpei needs to be able to defend himself as well as Hyde’s power is not enough. Thus Shunpei’s journey from wimp to cool sorcerer begins.
The premise of a loser boy being taught how to “be a man” by a dangerous-but-cuddly side-kick was already done in Reborn! but whereas that series was more of a comedy “Hyde and Closer” plays it more straight. The six sorcerers after Shunpei’s heart are genuine menaces, bringing the magic of different cultures like Haiti, Africa, the USA and Romania against him. Magic in “Hyde and Closer” works on four principals; belief, confidence courage and conviction. Lacking any of these means that spells are weak, and the person with the stronger willpower wins. Shunpei lacks all four attributes, and Hyde must train Shunpei to be a man and be able to defend himself using the power of his own will.
“Hyde and Closer” is a decent little comic that is better than its silly premise promises. As you can see from the artist’s photograph, Haro Aso is a bit of a punk rocker and he gives his series more edge than you would expect. Haro admits up front that Shunpei is basically a useless character, which leaves him lots of room to change and grow with the story. This volume has two of the six sorcerers, and by the end of the issue Shunpei has toughened up and shown that he has another side to him.
I like the art in “Hyde and Closer,” which has a good balance between detail and cartoonish look. Hyde himself is a cool character, and Haro went out of his way to make him cute but still darker-edged. All of the six sorcerers also use doll-avatars, which works well if you consider the horror potential with dolls.
This volume was a good kick off to a new series, and I am looking forward to the next volume.