I'll admit that I dropped this 3 or 4 times before I finally get into it enough to read it. Why is that? Because the first 50 or so chapters are complete garbage. I mean I know some Shounen stories might start weak - for example Kekkaishi is pretty dull until some real opponents appear - but Rave master wins in term of crappiest beginning. Not only the pace is completely off (waaay too fast dialogues) but also the ideas for power seems pretty cheap. Explosive sword called "Explosion"? What kind of lame power is that? Putting my whining aside, once the story gets rolling (Haru's father arc, or even Sieg Hart arc already) it actually starts getting enjoyable. It takes a while for dialogues to slow down, and there are still some lame powers appearing from time to time, but basicly it somehow manages to catch up to the level of average shounen battle manga.
Story - 5.5/10
So the world is in grave danger again. Our little, troubled fantasy land is plagued with evil stones "Dark Brings" that give ppl extraordinary powers. And to battle them a stone of everything that's good "Rave" is needed, and a swordsman who can yield it's powers - Haru Glory, a second rave master. As you can see the setting is dull and unorginal, and the naming sense is quite... silly. And as you could expect of Shounen the story progresses in somewhat predictable fashion... to a point. First arcs are pretty much one pattern - "Haru travels in search of Rave, meets some Demon card members, defeats them, maybe gets a companion in the proccess, proceed further". The twists start to appear after Haru's father arc, since instead of classical "kill all the important figure of the organisation and fight the boss" pattern we are suddenly faced with a lot of different organisations (sort of like how One piece handles things). Of course it doesn't change the "look for rave, defeat evildoers, get companion/rave " pattern, but at least it's not so obvious who wil be the next oponent. And then with the progress of the story, and more info about the nature of Rave/Darkbring, Ellies memories and truth of the world the setting is getting slightly more interesting.
Now probably the most annoying part is that main characters don't die. If you are some minor character like family member that haven't been around much or a random nice guy, party met yesterday you can be killed easily. But if you are a Rave master companion than even if you use the ultimate technique that sacrifice your life for immense power you will still live.I know that many Shounen goes this road, but I simply don't like it. The fact that major characters can die is what brings thrill to the battles. There is one exception of this rule (one important character actually dies) , but it's not in the battle, so it doesn't really count.
Not bad, but seen better - that's the best way to describe the large army of characters in this series. Some of them have nice stories, but they are still really flat. Rave master is a good person, because he is good and he is a Rave master - that's how you can sum up main char, and in similar way most of the characters work. They tend to spout the usual Shounen nonsense about "nakamas" and sacrificing their lives (probably they also know author won't kill them anyway, so they can act cocky). The villains are somehow more interesting, since they tend to have some interesting traumas, that made them turn evil. I can somehow sympathize more with a guy who wants to destroy everything in order to forget about his family being murdered, than with a person who just likes to experiment, or simply likes battles (not pointing fingers at any other Shounen mangas :P).
But there is something that raises the value of those characters and that is, unexpectedly, romance. While from a "Romance manga" point of view, focus on it is really weak, from a Shounen manga point of view it's pretty well done. Reliationship between Ellie and Haru is build slowly in some casual talk,leaning on each other in hard moments and helping one another. Once Ellies starts becoming more and more important their romance also gets more hightlight, with the dramatic and well execute finale (+ a bit forced, and not so well executed epilogue :P). Let and Julia story also isn't done bad, but since Julia isn't a well developed character, the relationship still feels inferior to ElliexHaru
And there is of course Sieg Hart- while he doesn't appear that often, he has one of the best parts in this story imo. Can't really write more without spoiling, but I can say I really liked his role in "Ellies past arc".
It starts ugly, and gradually gets better. But it never gets really great. The style is simlar to One piece, which is in my opnion a weak point. While this art goes well with comedy approach and some "pissed off getting ready to fight" poses, it doesn't support "various emotions" and "heated battle" situations well. Sure, it does somehow deal with them, but it's not on pair with how "classical drawing style" can picture them. Still character design in general wasn't bad, and most of the main characters looked cool and original enough.
If you need something that's 110% Shounen battle manga, and already read all the NAruto/Bleach/One piece/Kekkaishi/Kenichi/Some other major mangas I forgot than sure you can give this one a shot. But you'll need some patience with the first chapters. After that - it is an enjoyable and light read.