This is an absolutely great collection of the mangaka's one-shots. Each of them contains a lot of thinking of the author.
The info for HAL (the 1st story) is already given, and The Blue Wings (the 4th story) is prequel to the 4-chapter series Rec: Kimi ga Naita ni. Here I would strongly recommend the other two as well.
7-nengo no Niji:
About a girl who falls in love with a boy that she bullied seven years ago. It explores psychological aspects of the bully and the bullied. A very heartwarming story with some romance.
About a school where psychological bullying is very serious. It explores how these
happen and how should people react to it. A very thought provoking story.
The Blue Wings:
Rather than a prequel to Rec, it is rather like a different story using one same character. The theme is completely different, and the female MC never showed up in the following; nevertheless, it is another heartwarming story.
Admit it: you've reached the boiling point before. Question is; what now?
With only a chapter translated so far, ‘Hal’ addresses the atrocities of human nature and the extent of negative feelings. The story starts when a young girl succumbs to her negative feelings which have prompted the arrival of a certain shinigami named Hal. The girl is promised three death wishes of whomever the existence she wants gone and in the meantime, Hal shall stick around.
There's no doubt ‘Hal’ is a manga written by Aoi Makino whose past works include ‘Rec’ and ‘Sekai no Hate’. And if there is anything to be known about Aoi's
work, it's her trademark angst. She starts off with a wonderfully ordinary situation anyone can relate which will eventually spiral into something tragic. It's refreshing in a way that she can be so bold in her storytelling without holding back but consequently, both characters and the story suffer as her manga progresses. This is evidenced in her previous works and Hal is sadly no exception. But as a series of (sort of) one-shots, it makes it somewhat excusable since the main focus is not to be attached to the characters who unwittingly surrender to ‘Hal’ but to recognize there's a bit of darkness in us all. It's impossible to be completely freed of negative emotions such as jealousy, envy, hatred, etc and the beauty of ‘Hal’ is how it says, "So what?" Whether we abhor or adore does that make us any less human? It is how we move on and projects the best of our emotions towards each other that matters the most, a lesson today's people lose sight on but ‘Hal’ touches spot on.
As far as characters goes, with only one translated chapter, little can be said. The character of the first chapter is a high school girl with a superiority complex, excelling in school both academically and physically. Her world crashes when someone who's suitable as her equal and even superior comes along which is the reason for the visit of shinigami Hal. She is by far an exaggerated version of any students in school. After all, who can’t remember a time when they've felt resentment towards the person who scores higher than you on a test? But that is as far as her character can be said since though he makes less appearances than her, what's most interesting is Hal. Hal is a shinigami who whimsically manifests humans' hatred or negative feelings and grants three erase wishes as compensation. These erase wishes makes the targets existence completely nonexistent, enforcing the shinigami's purpose of feeding off of human emotions. Despite being nonhuman, many of Hal's insights are spot on.
Art work is clean and beautiful, having that Shoujo touch. Although this appearance works well with Aoi's other works, it does not bode well for this manga. Her drawings work well as a tragic beauty irony, the fact that everything and everyone drawn so pretty and cute has to mean everything goes well, right? But this isn't the kind of aim Aoi has for this one since right off the bat the manga tries to be philosophical with its profound messages. However, how seriously are we supposed to take them when everything looks so flowery even during the tragedy parts? It's like writing a funeral scene but having the characters all wonderfully dressed and damping elegantly with a hanky for each tear that falls.
Whatever it may be, ‘Hal’ attempts to convey a message about human nature and for the most part it succeeds. However, because we are unable to fully adjust to the character's changes in emotions, the quick paced story line, and finally the art which is inappropriate of the story it's based on, HAL remains nothing more than a poorly done mimicry of what may have been philosophical.
-a review written for 'Reviews from the unreviewed'