Aoharu x Machinegun, Vol. 1

By Naoe. Released in Japan by Square Enix, serialization ongoing in the magazine GFantasy. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Leighann Harvey.

I have to admit, I wasn’t looking forward to this one. It’s clearly popular, given it’s a Yen Press digital-only title that escaped into print (6 volumes are currently out digitally). But I saw the words ‘survival game’ and groaned, having grown incredibly weary of Battle Royale wannabes, ever decreasing casts, and heartwarming character development followed by murder. Fortunately, Aoharu x Machinegun isn’t any of these things, instead being about a survival game we have here in reality – paintball wars. Only no paint here, instead we have bb pellets, and the party that is shot has to announce it. You can imagine how often that works out. Luckily, the two guys who make up our viewpoint team have found a new, good and earnest young man to be their third. Except what they don’t know is… she’s a woman!


This title runs in GFantasy, so probably deserves to be called shoujo, as that’s as close as Square Enix really gets to the genre. Our heroine, who sadly isn’t badass enough to get the cover art, is Hotaru, who goes to school dressed in a male uniform, is fairly flat-chested, and has a strong sense of justice that leads her to be hot-blooded and violent. Ergo, no one really assumes she’s a girl at all – only her best friend seems to know. The sense of justice is what leads to our plot, as in order to get revenge for said friend, she ends up invading a host club to take on the guy who was responsible. Naturally, he challenges her to a gun duel, and naturally, she loses. But she does have mad skills, so (not knowing she’s female – he literally tells the others he refuses to have girls on his team) he gets her to join him in outdoor survival gun battles.

So yeah, less Battle Royale and more Ouran High School Host Club. Unlike Ouran, though, the artist seems content to have Hotaru’s secret be a secret for now, which is fine, as neither Masamune (the aforementioned guy) or Tooru (the somewhat creepy next door neighbor who has an unhealthy obsession with Masamune) seem to be falling for her despite themselves. I was actually rather surprised that this trope didn’t pop up immediately, given its appearance in almost all shoujo featuring cross-dressing female leads. But romance is not the point of this first volume. This first volume is driven by Hotaru stressing out, bonding with her new friends, and being so overearnest that it drives everyone to distraction. It’s a good contrast for the guys, who are far more devious, though that sometimes doesn’t work out for them, particularly Tooru.

Nothing in this volume blew me away, but it’s quietly competent, with good action scenes and a likeable hero. And of course it hits on a current trend, while also managing to keep itself light and fluffy. And Hotaru’s very likeable. “Decent” is not really much of a recommendation, but that’s how I come away from Aoharu x Machinegun. Tell you what, I’ll add to it. “Mostly decent.”

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  1. I kind of just bought it with no clue wtf it was (because I got nuts in the comic shop), but I found it quite decent as well. I would like to see vol 2 go on. And you reminded me of the K-drama “You’re Beautiful” where this girl has to join a boy band under cover, the one guy finds out she’s a girl right away (when he carries her away completely drunk at a party in the first episode and clearly feels that she has a chest, but he doesn’t say anything about it, so she thinks he doesn’t know), a second guy finds out fairly soon, so they both develop crushes on her, but then the third guy is clearly falling for her and has no damn clue whatsoever. The third guy’s conclusion is that he is closet gay for falling for the other “guy” and has no idea until he’s told way later in the series (at which point he’s glad that he’s actually straight, hooray?) But I hadn’t even realized how annoying that trope is until you mentioned its absence here. I kind of let You’re Beautiful get away with it though because it’s the one dude, and he’s the comic relief character and is pretty awesome, but it’s also not the main premise of the series either. When it’s the main idea of the series, then yeah, that’s pretty annoying.
    The whole manga here though kind of makes me want to try paintball for real.

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