Friday, August 31, 2018


Just because it's an old-school manga doesn't mean that it can't be derivative and muddled, as today's review demonstrates.

HYPER DOLLS (Rakusho! Hyperdoll), by Shinpei Itoh.  First published in 1995 and first published in North America in 2002.


Everything starting going wrong after Hideo Akai wished on a shooting star.  He didn't get a wish, but instead had his town invaded by bizarre alien monsters.  He's saved by a pair of pretty lady warriors calling themselves the Hyper Dolls, but they swear him to secrecy or else they will rip his head off.  Now the girls, Miyu and Miaka, are trying to lay low at Akai's high school, but dark forces from both Earth and space are conspiring against them...

Have you ever read a manga that felt so much like someone's fanfic with the copyrighted characters serial numbers filed off that it's uncanny?  That's what reading Hyper Dolls was like for me.  It's basically Itoh making a story about "what if the Dirty Pair went to some rando's high school?", except it's nowhere near as fun as that premise should be.

The biggest problem is that Hyper Dolls keeps shifting its focus away from its titular duo and instead on the boring high school boy.  Akai is a total nobody, and the only other person less interesting than him is the local detective who is trying to track down the source of all these extraterrestrial goings-on.  Naturally, this means that they totally merit 2/3rd of the book with their own little plot threads.  Meanwhile, Miyu and Miaka are largely left to the sides unless they're needed to kick a giant alien monster in the face or threaten Akai to keep him from telling their secret, with barely a quirk or two to their name to distinguish one from the other. 

The fight scenes seem to be the only time this manga really comes to life.  There is energy and excitement, and Itoh does try his best to drag them out as much as reasonably possible.  It's just that everything in between is so tedious that it doesn't feel worth it.  I think I would have rather read the Dirty Pair high school AU fanfic that this story wants to be.


Itoh does certainly try his best to relieve the tedium with his art, and at times he does succeed.  He clearly loves drawing fights, the bigger the better.  The girls fly in and out of frame, every punch and kick has impact, and it all tends to end in explosions.  He's also got some decent comic timing; while his wild takes are nothing special visually, he times them well.  He also kind of struggles with profiles, which is a shame because the character designs aren't bad.  They're pretty much like 80% of what most anime and manga looked like in the mid-90s, but it has a nostalgic sort of charm. 


There's an author's note before the story where Itoh talks about the influences on this story.  He cites Ultraman, martial arts films and...The Poe Clan, an old shojo manga about vampires written by Moto Hagio.




While the artwork isn't bad, it's not enough to overcome the tedium and the derivative nature of the story of Hyper Dolls.  Just stick with the actual Dirty Pair, whether it's the anime or the original light novels.  You'll likely have more fun doing so.

This series was published by Studio Ironcat.  This series is complete in Japan with 5 volumes available.  3 volumes were published and are currently out of print.

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