Apologies for not posting in ages, had this half finished for a good 3 months now
I picked up this by hearing about it in a podcast discussion of moe on manga out loud.
My first reaction was this is being regarded by a critic as good, should look it up.
My second reaction was it's probably just some other author with the same name.
Then I confirm it was indeed that author and instantly purchase both volumes off Amazon.
The books in question are Hibiki's Magic, the author Jun Meada of Key/Visual Art's
It's only two volumes long so far. The artist Rei Idumi (Izumi), of .Hack//Legend of the Twilight and character designs for True Tears, was very ill and largely unable to work. She's recovering and has been working again blogged back in December about volume 3
So this is going to be a very, very biased review. I'm not going to complain about emotional manipulation or it being too cute and moe.
The setting, broadly speaking, is the same as Fulmetal Alchemist, their "magic" runs by an exchange principle (closer to xxxHolic's) and is research focused on immortality. Hibiki is a young orphan working as sole assistant to a famous mage, she's a total novice and looks at him as a father figure. During an experiment where her master is possessing an animal they're robbed, her masters body is killed and the house destroyed. She escapes with the rodent and plenty of money. When she arrives at their country's capital seeming work and board she is accosted by another powerful mage and given a job at their magic academy.
We then get typical Key style hard hitting emotional manipulation. A series of short stories about people who got used in experiments in a magical war, local ghosts and curses, and the back story of the characters. They range from the equivalent of the infamous Nina chapter of FMA to some of the lighter parts of xxxHolic. There's also the darker overall theme of the costs attached to her "magic".
The characters are cute as expected. Hibiki exemplifies the classic moe archetype of being well meaning to the point of causing problems for others and always trying her hardest. Her master come animal sidekick was bishounen and intentionally distant from others but warms to Hibiki, especially after gaining rodent form. The other male lead is the problem student, Ahito. He picks a fight with Hibiki due to his cynicism and seeing her as an easy target and she pulls a defence of showing him his worst fears. He's forced to face a past trauma and Hibiki consoles him, they're friends from then on.
It''s still in the introducing the cast stage, and I don't want to spoil further so I'll not mention the other lead.
Overall an interesting start and great setup to expand on further, shame it's taken so long to progress, but unavoidable.Very sweet, though I can see tragedy looming slowly towards our heroine, hopefully she'll persevere and come out still happy and full of energy.
Plot : 8