Saturday, July 28, 2018

Mugen Shinshi, vol. 4 comments

(Image from, used for review purposes only.)

Mugen Shinshi (Fantasy Gentleman), vol. 4, by Yousuke Takahashi, Grade A (Shonen Captain magazine, 1989-90)
I have to confess that I'm really not sure if the title is supposed to be "Shishi" or "Shinshi." I thought I'd seen and heard both readings, but "Shinshi" (紳士) is in my dictionary and "Shishi" isn't. I guess I'm going to start using "shinshi" for the title from here on.

Anyway, there's really not a lot to discuss in this book. Lots of silly short stories, with Mamiya having to cope with his prank-prone father, Kyoushiro, and murderous aunt, Neko. There is a growing romantic element between Mami and his girlfriend-by-default, Atsuko. The two try to kiss more often towards the second half of the volume, but are generally interrupted by Kyoushiro one way or another. There are quite a few female nude scenes, either at onsens or during dress changing sequences, and Atsuko is a professional stripper, so Takahashi tries to have Mamiya and Kyoushiro strip down occasionally "for balance." Mostly, this is still played for laughs, but if you're offended by cartoon nudity, this manga is not for you.

There's pretty much no horror at all this time, except for an illustrated 6-page short story at the end (a maid had died by falling down the stairs while tending to a young girl, and her bloody corpse continues to haunt the house long after her employer's family move out). Even here, the twist ending is played for laughs.

None of the chapters contribute much to the Mugen universe, with the exceptions of Chawan no Omoidasu (Teacup Memories) and Mamiya Tanjoubi Hiwa (The Secret Story of Mamiya's Birthday). Hiwa is another flashback, to a time when Kyoushiro, Yukie and Alucard were poor and living in a rundown apartment. The landlord was getting tired of waiting for the rent, and was going to make Yukie marry him if Kyoushiro missed the payment again at the end of the month. While Yukie thought her new husband was at his second house, he was in fact in jail, having gotten caught in another crime. Yukie was pregnant and the due date was coming up, so Kyoushiro and his Shinto priest friend broke out of prison, but when they got to the apartment, they learned that it was going to be a difficult birth, and the only midwife that could do the delivery was the priest's younger sister, and she lived on the opposite side of town. Kyoushiro then raced several miles with Yukie on his back, and they got to the midwife just in time. Years later, Yukie is showing her photo album to Mamiya and Atsuko, as Kyoushiro enters the room in a giant cockroach costume, so Mamiya hits him with a large wooden mallet.

For Chawan, Atsuko dreams that she's a little girl again, poor and living under a bridge, and that her mother has given her a teacup embossed with a moon and a turtle. That was the last time she'd seen her mother. Later on during the day, Mamiya is chasing after a thief that has stolen a priceless ceramic mug. The mug gets broken during the chase, and when Mamiya shows the pieces to Atsuko, she reacts to seeing the turtle and moon on one shard. She tells Mamiya about her dream, so the boy tracks down the fabled ceramics master that made the original cup to get him to come out of retirement to make a new one for Atsuko. The master forces Mamiya to go through an almost impossible series of challenges first, then agrees to fire up his kiln again. The master says that he'd given the original moon and turtle cup to his child, before the baby was taken away by its mother. Mamiya brings Atsuko to the master's hut, saying "here's your long-lost child." But, the guy starts poking Atsuko in the chest, answering that his missing child was a boy. Additionally, that moon and turtle cup had been so popular back in the day that many cup makers began producing cheap knock-off copies. Mamiya and Atsuko return home empty handed, and to help the girl feel better, Mamiya stops at a mountainside tea house to buy her lunch (she then eats 10-15 plates and bowls of food).

Sumamry: There are a few parody splash pages (Batman, Peter Pan, Lupin III and Castle Cagliostro) that are really good, and the other gag stories are pretty funny. Overall, highly recommended.

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