It’s time for an action series that isn’t super well known. It’s certainly on the more obscure side I’d say as even I hadn’t heard of it before starting the series. It feels like Reborn in a lot of ways with how the main character isn’t very brave but the chibi mobster helps him learn how to defend himself and fight back. Only instead of a baby gangster it is a toy gangster. So there’s a lot of similarities there but while this series never makes it up to Reborn’s level, I would say it’s still a pretty good title.
The manga starts out with introducing us to Shunpei who is a nervous wreck and never really developed his magical abilities. His grandfather Alsyd is known as the greatest sorcerer in the world and always leaves souvenirs for Shunpei. Well, one day the grandpa vanishes but not before leaving Shunpei with a stuffed bear named Hyde. Shunpei’s too old for toys but when he is attacked by one, Hyde is the only one able to come to his rescue. Hyde explains that sorcerers all over the world are going to be going after Shunpei to take him down for good. Each Sorcerer uses a toy of their own and if Shunpei wants to live through this then he’s going to have to man up and work with Hyde. Shunpei isn’t thrilled about any of this but doesn’t have much of a choice and he is worried about his grandpa.
The manga’s reasonably short at 7 volumes but gets to do quite a bit before the ending suddenly blazes in and everything just ends. It’s a very retro kind of story that feels old while you’re reading it. Not in a bad way per say but you can immediately tell that this isn’t a newer manga. Likewise the art is a bit old like that but it works out well enough for the fights. It’s the kind of artstyle that can get a little busy during the fight scenes so the pages may take longer to read. I would still say it looks good though, not very good or anything but it gets the job done. The series has quite a lot of action and all so it’s reasonably balanced. It just never hits its stride and becomes a great manga.
I would say that’s in part due to the characters. The cast isn’t bad but they’re not great and that seems to sum up most of the manga. A lot of the villains are quite forgettable and the side characters were only just coming into their own by the end. The strongest aspect of the story is the whole toys angle as that’s fairly unique. I also like the idea of the curses bouncing back at the user if they lose a fight. It makes each battle more high stakes for the villain for a change which is certainly a twist.
Shunpei starts out as a very underwhelming main character because I never like the nervous types but he really turns things around in the second half. I haven’t seen such a big turnaround in a minute but he gets very serious and is suddenly jumping into fights. Shunpei learned how to use the barrier skill which was his first big power up and he certainly does make the most of it. While it’s not an offensive move, it can protect him from almost all attacks. I suppose in that sense it’s more of an absolute domain since he creates the rules within the pocket he draws. Shunpei could directly contribute this way and when you mix in his confidence, that definitely helped a lot. You almost don’t recognize the guy from the first half.
Then you have Hyde who isn’t quite as charismatic as Reborn but he has the tough guy personality where he talks like a mafia member. He really wants Shunpei to learn what it is to be a man and has a lot of speeches for it. I like his personality and what they are going for here but the only underwhelming part is I feel like he’s quite weak half the time. He needs Shunpei to take out the Chainsaw from his back during the first fight and that seemed like a huge weakness. After that Hyde is able to fight on his own but he seems to “Meet his Match” in just about every fight so Shunpei needs to help out. I would expect more out of Alysd’s most powerful creation. I know he is always running on low energy due to plot reasons but I would have liked for him to have gotten more solo wins before he was outmatched.
As for the grandfather, he misses out on most of the story of course. When he does appear, Alsyd does look good though and lives up to his hype as the greatest sorcerer. The manga has a good reason for keeping him out of the action for so long even if it’s a shame that he had no way to contact anyone. He certainly performed his part well and bought the characters a whole lot of time. He’s one of those manga old guys who seemed to have gotten even more powerful with age given how long he was able to hold out without food or drink.
Tatsumi is the main heroine here and she’s fun enough. She reminds me of the heroine from Law of Ueki although she doesn’t actively help out in the fights quite on the same level. Tatsumi gets to see Shunpei’s character development first hand and is always around to support him. I wouldn’t say she ever makes a mistake of trips up and remains a loyal ally throughout the whole series.
The first big character to show up is Shindou as the first assassin to be going after Shunpei. He uses his doll Tomiko in order to fight and her hair is indestructible. Their dynamic is very similar to Yuta’s from JJK. A curse is essentially the reason why Tomiko is a doll now and Shindou fights in part to get rid of that curse. As a rite of passage usually the first villains are the ones who have the greatest chance of becoming a hero and he does end up helping Shunpei for most of the series. He’s the smart member of the group and is always careful to measure the odds. I liked him well enough and Tomiko was a good fighter. She’s the best shield you can have and is really the one doing all the heavy lifting since Shindou can’t fight at the same level. This series is all about teamwork and since these two have such a strong bond, they were in a good spot from the start.
Kazan is another one of the allies who helps out Shunpei. He protects a lot of kids but feels guilt over having murdered someone by accident. While he was ultimately forgiven and not hanged as a result, it took him a while to come to terms with that. Nothing a good speech and beating from Hyde won’t cure though. Kazan’s the tough kind of character who will rush into action but isn’t quite as powerful as some of the other members. His doll Desmond also feels weaker than the others. I like the suit of armor but beyond that it doesn’t feel like he has a game changing ability like Hyde or Tomiko.
Ana is another one of the fighters who wants Shunpei’s power. Initially she appears as a villain due to that and then gradually becomes another one of the allies. She actually gets a full backstory which ties into one of the villains later on and so she has a big role throughout the series. Her doll is one of the more versatile ones with the boombox abilities and music type skills although I would say that it lacks the raw power that some of the others have.
Then there’s Pacqwa who is an items seller but the gimmick is that she isn’t very good at being a seller which I wasn’t a fan of. I feel like she could have put more effort into her craft. Ultimately it works out since Shunpei is able to believe hard enough though and belief is how you get the magic to function in these things. He really had to do all of the work though so I hope she will improve in time for a sequel series some day.
There are a ton of one shot villains here of course which is good since that way you won’t be able to tell which ones will turn good and which ones are doomed. The more evil they are, the stronger the curse is when they lose so some of these guys end up dying or being sent to the hospital in critical condition. Either way, it’s a good explanation for why these guys don’t return since they won’t be in a position to do so for a very long time.
Schubert was personally one of my favorite villains. The guy’s a rich CEO and so of course he has a lot of toys. With his ability he is able to use tons of them at a time and it’s very much a quantity over quality kind of thing. Even with that he is able to give the heroes a good fight though and I would say he was the most impressive villain in the series. He really had them on the ropes for most of the fight and why does he want the power? Because as CEO he just wants everything of course. The reason is so simple that you just can’t help but find it funny. This guy was just a blast.
Enrique is another one of the villains who is ultimately being manipulated here. He thought that he needed to take Shunpei down and really went for it but the hero realized that something was up and didn’t finish him. Not that Shunpei finishes most of his opponents off but he was able to end the fight before the curse could flip so nothing really bad happens to Enrique. Nice enough kid but he definitely needs to be careful not to trust too easily.
Now as for The Watcher in the Window….this guy isn’t all that great. It’s probably the biggest risk of having a villain who is always hiding in the shadows when the series has to quickly end. He doesn’t really get to do anything until the very end where he is quickly dispatched. There’s no time to really get to enjoy his character or anything and since he loses quickly…he doesn’t look as impressive as he could be. Now, he is certainly powerful and deserves to be the final boss but I would have liked him to have done something a whole lot sooner. The egg plan wasn’t even that bad in terms of unlocking pure evil but the watcher’s whole character arc goes so fast that it’ll leave your head spinning. I would have handled his character in a different way as the potential there was great. Still, I imagine the author had different plans too.
There are a few more villains we should talk about though. Next up is Punch, he’s ultimately one of the stronger opponents and makes for a good rival to Hyde. Their battle goes to the wire and it’s always good to have the dark version of the lead show up. In a lot of ways he is like an alternate look on what would happen if Hyde turned evil. Fortunately that was never in the cards as it would go firmly against Hyde’s code of ethics.
Ronove is completely psychotic and basically just likes to see people and things die. She started from plants and went all the way to people with this. I can’t say that I liked her right from the jump. The psychotic villains like this tend to just be so over the top that there no longer is anything interesting about them. I’d rather if she had a lot of plans and ideas but instead she is just crazy with no bigger goals than dishing out pain. Of course her boss has big plans but she is only following to inflict damage. Her character was just sort of doomed but I can acknowledge that her flames made her one of the most powerful villains in the series. Possibly second to the Watcher.
Finally you have her partner Asmodai who is also evil from the jump. In fact, he was murdering people while he was still in the womb and wasn’t born yet which is kinda crazy. He starts murdering people over something super petty as well and just never went back from there. He’s not quite mindless but Asmodai is basically just a brute who goes around destroying everyone he can. There’s not a whole lot to this character and while that can potentially work if you are very charismatic or have cool powers, that’s not the case with him.
So that wraps up the cast. As you can tell I was much more impressed with the heroes than the villains. The Watcher was an interesting character though but I just don’t think he stuck the landing. Ultimately Hyde and Closer is a fun series but not one that you would call great. It doesn’t have enough special aspects that would cause you to really remember it among all of the competitors. The whole curse and puppet angle could have helped make it big since that’s a fairly small sub-genre. The biggest one I can think of like that would be Zatch Bell.
It felt like the series was gearing up for a big arc in the future but ultimately the series ended before that could happen. I think the author did have a lot of plans for this one but the series couldn’t manage to make it that far. Definitely too bad. The series did have a little animal violence during one of the sob stories and the final two villains were trying to be as twisted as possible so it’s possible that extending the length of the series could have hurt it. For example if the author decided to double down on that and keep making things darker. I don’t ultimately think the series would have fallen off of that cliff though so I would have liked a few more volumes.
The series does get to conclude its arc of turning Shunpei into a man though so the author made sure that wasn’t left unfinished. He does have a brief moment near the end of the series where he effectively gives up and reverts back to his old self but fortunately that was temporary. It would have been a shame to have wiped out his character development like that but instead he stays strong. It may be a rather basic message but it’s executed well. Shunpei learns how to stand up for himself and how to create his own sense of justice. That’s always good for a lead to have.
Overall, Hyde and Closer is a solid adventure title. I think that’s the best way to think about it as you will have a good amount of fun reading it and then the whole thing will be over. The art was good and we got solid fight scenes even if it could be hard to read at a glance sometimes. Shunpei showed tremendous improvement as a main character and I believe he would have only continued to improve from there. The monster of the week format was working well enough but it was nice to get a big villain organization near the end and amp up the fights. It all feels like we were still in the first act though and things could have really kept on going for a while yet. Don’t let that stop you from reading it though as the series does have an ending. Maybe one day it’ll get a sequel.