Saturday, October 10, 2009
Manga Reviews: The World God Only Knows, Gintama
Gin Tama, by Hideaki Sorachi, Grade B+
Gin Tama is largely a gag manga set in an alternate universe where aliens invade Japan and take all the jobs. Gin is a ronin who takes odd jobs to make ends meet. Over time, he makes friends with some oddballs (human and humanoid) and encounters various baddies that he defeats (human and alien). The historical timeline is bent to allow the shinsengumi (the special police force prominent after Commodore Perry opened Japan's borders for trade) to run rampant alongside spaceships and energy weapons. There is a fair amount of combat, but few people get permanently killed off. Mostly, it's all played for laughs. There's no really ongoing storyline, although some minor plot lines occasionally resurface.
The artwork is a bit stiff, and very reminiscent of older manga character designs in that Gin's face is rather static, as if he's been shot up with a syringeful of botox. Action sequences look posed instead of fluid, and when someone does get hurt, they tend to stand there and just bleed a lot. The character designs aren't that attractive, but I do like the giant dog, and super strong alien girl Kagura. In fact, it's fun watching the dog trying to kill her, and Kagura taking this all in as good clean fun. Although, I like the TV anime better, because Kagura is a lot more impressive when she moves near the speed of sound. Unfortunately, Gin does tend to be indestructable, so there's little tension when it looks like he's going to lose (he never does, unless it's when it doesn't matter, then he just can't win for anything).
Summary: Gin Tama is a gag manga that pits the shinsengumi of the late 1850's against alien job stealers. The stiff artwork and lack of a long-term story line makes this title something of an acquired taste. I can't read this in large doses at one time (in fact, I haven't read it in quite a while). Recommended if you're sitting in Border's and want something to read while sipping a mocha skim latte almond chai-acinno by yourself on a sunny spring Saturday afternoon.
The World God Only Knows, by Tamiki Wakaki, Grade B+
Ahh, back to sukebe-land! What happens when you force a misanthrope to save the world? Not a whole lot. Keima Katsuragi is a video game freak, specializing in "girl chaser" games. If there's a game that requires learning how to overcome a woman's defenses, he's not only played it, but he's solved it before everyone else has had a chance to buy it. But, he has no interest in the real thing, because real-life women just can not measure up to the ideals of the game world. Enter Elsia de Lute Irma, an inept underling from the demon world sent to capture spirits that have escaped from Hell and that like to lodge in the cracks in a woman's heart. Unknowingly, Keima has agreed to a contract to help Elsa capture a specific number of spirits - failure to do so will result in his death. Keima soon learns that dating a girl is nothing like the simulation games. Sometimes.
TWGOK is a gag manga that pits Keima against different personality types (aggressive, shy, panicked) and in a way is used as an examination of the human psyche. What drives people to act the way they do, and how can your actions alter someone else's behavior? The artwork in TWGOK is very clean, and the characters all look cute. Most of the humor revolves around Keima's trying to play his PSP in class or when being attacked by a hostile spirit. Eventually, the situation falls into one of the standard dating sim patterns and Keima gets the woman or girl to kiss him, forcing the spirit out of her heart so it can be captured by Elsa. Afterwards, the victim remembers nothing, except that maybe Keima isn't that bad of a person after all.
World God is kind of a one-trick pony, since the plot always repeats - new female arrives, female reacts badly to Keima and is found to be possessed, Keima has trouble dealing with real women, Keima solves the puzzle, spirit gets captured, female has her memories erased. As such, this manga will never rise much above the fluff category, but it is fun fluff.
Summary: Boy finds video games are a lot easier to deal with than reality, but is forced to find ways to get girls to kiss him. Good artwork, uncomplicated storyline. Recommended.