Triple Trouble: Gestalt, Zig☆Zag, Pumpkin Scissors

The theme of this Triple Trouble review? Manga I haven’t read in between a year to five years and wanted to deal with already, God dang you. It’s hard even for me to BS a common link between these three. They’re all comedy-ish, but not one series uses it as the defining genre, although Zig☆Zag’s a Tokyopop manga claiming such. It ain’t primarily to me.

So the theme is “In Suffering, There is Laughter.” Cheery!

The real theme is “Quickie Reviews.” I’m going to touch the finer points here because, coincidentally, none of these series really impacted me after finishing them. So that’s a lot of themes.


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I’ve been avoiding Gestalt for years, mostly because I didn’t get it. So I let it sit until I got it.

Five years later, I still don’t get it, so I refuse to let it sit in storage for 10-years-later Me to review it.

“Gestalt” is the psychological theory that the whole should be viewed as more important than the sum of its parts. Nope, not sure why the protagonist (?) is named that. She’s *SPOILER, DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU WANT TO READ THIS SERIES* actually a dude, so maybe it refers to his magnificent boobs.

The cover brags “FROM THE CREATOR OF LOVELESS!”, but not in Caps Lock; that’s just for me to mock it. I never read Loveless, but judging from Jason Thompson’s manga review book and his subsequent two-star review, it’s nothing to brag aboot.

Plot: There are eight gods, one being Gestalt, who tried to overthrow the supreme god. A priest, Father Olivier, wants to travel to the island of Gestalt, only to receive a mute slave, Ouri. She can use magic and is actually not mute (using the same sign shtick Genma of Ranma used to talk). Together, they (and some companions along the way) venture to Gestalt to… something.

Two positive things for me, at all: One, the color combinations are lovely. The cover and inside colored pages have a unique blend of colors that… that just pop. TOO BAD THIS IS MANGA, AMIRITE? The other is the designs. Ouri, ***SPOILER*** who is actually the GAWD Gestalt (referred to in a “he who shall not be named” vein), has flouncy hair that is a labor of love. Dudes, not so much. Blond hair. Glasses. A++.

Negatives: Lazy art. Well, lazy-shading. A dark-skinned man has teeth the same color as his lips, and shading is unremarkable. Eyes are sometimes unfilled which gives off a dead look, and when people are sinister, their hair and skin inverts color. Not terrific. But the composition of bodies makes up for it, not to mention those magnificent boobs. Too bad action doesn’t support that art well. But I suppose in a series about magic-users, it’s fine. Nerds.

The series, an RPG, doesn’t run with the concept well. Why does a snow-monster beat one of fire? Is that a common trope? Then why? It feels like a parody, but not a strong one. It’s hard to follow who’s who, even if you can tell the two bespectacled guys apart. Characters seem to go with the flow, not the motion of their own ocean, and the motives trickle down to Misty’s “Pay for my bike” stuff. WE BEAT MEWTWO TOGETHER, MISTY. LET IT GO. Even that’s an actual motive. The dark-elf just seems bored, and even Olivier isn’t clear on his motives.

Maybe that’s my main issue: I don’t care. The characters don’t care. The manga doesn’t care. What happened to the spectators? Did they drown in the spell Ouri made? The king was killed by the queen! And then it’s abandoned. What about the ally they made? Not even a goodbye? It’s hard to focus because it never matters.

Overall grade, with Art as B+ (for those magnificent boobs), Story as C, and Personal Interest as C-, I give it a C+. Again, volume ones usually start weak, so maybe the other seven pick up the pace.


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It’s always a good sign when the title has a star in it. Zig☆Zag is the best of this bunch, but it’s still “eh,” even for a manga I enjoy. This is labelled as a comedy, but the hook is the drama. Okay, yes, it’s funny more than dramatic, but it’s only through presentation. Listen up:

Plot: Sonoh has been disowned from his flower-arranging family. Things go from bad to worse when his new roommate is Takaki, a boy as cute as a girl who loves flowers. From there, we follow Takaki as he has to deal with the slowly-defrosting Sonoh and his twin brother, Yuuki; Saho, a tomboy he always flirts with but whom he always ends up fighting with; Tatsuki, his rambunctious childhood friend who always hits on Mei; and JiJi, who whatever.

See? It’s DeGrassi. And there’s lots of scenes lying on De Grass, see?

Positives: Jokes are funny, but don’t necessarily hit. Personalities are structured in a way that Mei, who hates Tatsuki, can be flattered for a gift of flowers. Basically, friendship and hatred aren’t flatly applied. There’s a lot of cute moments, like when Takaki befriends a man he believes to be the school gardener. “This tree is 62 years old! That’s how old I am!” he says to a consistently impressed Takaki. But as it turns out, he’s not a gardener! For you see, when the gardener introduces himself on the first day of school, it turns out that he was the principal! And Takaki makes an outburst along those lines! And the principal smiles it off! He doesn’t return for the entire volume.

Lot of flower-love here, and it is nice, although the main focus is on relationships, and I don’t necessarily mean luv. A lot of the writing feels fanfictiony, but that’s not a bad thing per se. The personalities are diverse, and all the stock-roles are there. It’s just the constant influx of characters that prevents you from really having enough time to take it all in. It works well, for what it’s worth, but it doesn’t feel respectful.

Negatives: While I did complain about Gestalt’s art, I think the major positive I had for it should have been here: It should have experimented with itself more, art-wise. Yuki Nakaji is a swell writer but a cookie-cutter artist. It’s not worse than bad art, it’s perpendicular to it. Read a shojo? It’s here in this art style. Big eyes, nice chins, no fat dudes. Boring and safe, and forgettable and sorry. At least it’s nice, but I have manga that take the bland style and smudge the lines or cut the thickness. Why settle for fine? Make it look bad, but let the story shine!

The setup of the manga is that it’s a recently coed school. This fact never comes into play, and it only serves to justify the ratio of male to female students. It’s pandering, obviously, and it makes zero sense if you don’t add another layer to it. Too much happens at once, and while it is fine and balanced, it’s not always interesting. I’m not really into Takaki and Saho’s “will they/won’t they,” since they don’t interact normally. And I hope Tatsuki and Mei don’t.

Overall grade, with Art as C-, Story as A-, and Personal Interest as B, I give it a B-. It’s fun, but it lacks a certain star-quality, and if the plot thickens better in the following 8 volumes, it’s not shown much here.


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When I lent someone my copy of D.Gray-man, they concluded it was a “bad rip-off of Fullmetal Alchemist.” Well, Pumpkin Scissors (published by Del Rey, before it became Kodansha) is a terrible rip-off off of Fullmetal Alchemist.

Plot: During her graduation from the war academy technical terminology, Alice and her classmates are shocked to discover that the war they’ve been fighting has ceased fire, and a peace treaty has been made. Years later, Alice and her crew serve as war relief, cleaning up the disaster the war caused. Alice meets Randel who, judging by the tingle on her neck that lets her know of important events, she befriends and initiates into her staff. Can relief come to a world gone mad?

It’s essentially Fullmetal Alchemist. Cute dog at work? A story in the first volume about helping the overworked and underpaid mining community getting what’s theirs? A giant with an association with souls? Sending crews out for missions to a topsy-turvy world? Advanced technology but outdated clothing styles? Sure, Fullmetal Alchemist owns nothing, and some of my examples are vague, but it is too much to shy away from.

Really, I like this idea for a story a lot. Focus of not the war but the damage it caused? Brilliant. It’s just that Coppelion does it better. Okay, I only saw the anime, but gimme a break here. It was played seriously with brief lightness, unlike Pumpkin Scissors, which has too much humor in the wrong places. Serious moments are better without the bland underlings snarking.

So there’s some negatives. Let’s get some not-negatives.

Positives: Not much. Sometimes the manga can get a horrified chuckle out of me, like how the stoic (but polite) Randel in the previous chapter asks Alice to breastfeed a baby. “Lieutenant! Great! I need boobies!” SLAP. And Randel also supplies some wisdom when Alice goes mad trying to act common to apologize for her wealth. The ideas are smart, but it comes too rarely. That’s it.

Negatives: List? List.

1) Evil characters are flat-evil, not complex-evil. The first two chapters feature villains who are monster-minded madmen in tanks, and they play out the same.
2) I never once laughed sincerely. I despise the klutzy office-girl, and I loathe the two snippy underlings.
3) More of a company complaint, but I never liked Del Rey’s font. I like the little all-caps most places use.
4) The war is vague, and they might as well have gone with a natural freak weather electrical storm or something. At least as of this volume, the war isn’t often mentioned.
5) Characters who are evil has long noses, crooked grins, twitchy eyes. No subtlety.
6) Too much whitespace in some areas, too much blackspace in others.
7) The designs aren’t much to look at.
8) The action is confusing, and it’s not easy to tell what’s going on when tanks are involved.
9) Why “Pumpkin Scissors?”

Overall grade, with Art as D+, Story as B-, and Personal Interest a C-, I give it a C-. The series only lasted here with four more volumes, and with 19+ volumes in Japan. Wait, 19+? This is 2002 in origin. It has 19 volumes in 13 years? Oy vey.

COMPLETED! Doubt!!

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Yes, I actually read “Doubt!!” in full like I said I would. Read my review of volume one here.

Here’s the gist: Yes, I said that “Doubt!!” was better than I expected. And it did, in fact, keep me laughing throughout, up until the ending. But so does a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. That’s what it is; extremely episodic. Take a drama and give it elements from Scooby-Doo!, and there’s Doubt!!.

With the early Scooby-Doo! episodes, you know how it plays out. They go somewhere haunted, they get chased, they find out the villain was the one person they interacted with in the episode. Doubt!! is easily predictable as well. Ai is in love with So, and they’re happily dating. But what’s this? A new girl? Perhaps their student teacher, or a college woman? Could it be So’s betrothed, or his mom or a guy who wants to spite Ai? Those last two don’t deviate much. True, they aren’t interested in So romantically, but they, like the wave of girls, create a barrier between Ai and So. But it’s always resolved in the span of two to three chapters, so who cares? You know So won’t fully abandon Ai.

It’s sad, because I love how shallow the series is, but I didn’t want it to be shallow to the point of not deviating from the girlfriend garbage. Only occasionally do we get other, fun stories. Ai helps a hairy guy look presentable, but it’s his attitude that’s ugly, as he spreads rumors about Ai to coerce her into dating him. How about Mina, Ai’s best friend and ganguro girl who wistfully recalls her first, leading Ai and So to team up, throw away the sanity ball, and get the guy to take responsibility? And instead of all the chapters where Ai is catty about So’s girlfriends, how about So and his best friend Yuichiro fight over Ai?

As the series progresses, the plot laziness is worse. One story has a fat girl sabotage Ai because she’s jealous of her looks. When Ai finds out, the girl dares Ai to hit her. Now, in other series, they’d go “You’re not worth it,” or “I’m not like you.”

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I really do love this manga at times like this.

Both Ai and So then call her out for her ugly attitude, in a cruel but not unwarranted manner. And it’s great, it’s wonderful.

What’s the next chapter about?

Oh, Ai wants to diet? And they don’t even mention the previous chapter? And So calls Ai out for essentially the same thing as the fat girl? Couldn’t they have spaced this out more than zero chapters apart? By the way, the fat girl chapter is a slightly distorted version of the hairy guy chapter. Both want the hottest student in school, so they spread rumors. Then the nottie is publicly crushed by their respective hottie. Both are ugly inside and out.

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If you think that’s bad, try reading the girlfriend stuff.

Ai fights off a catty student teacher. She tries to shove Ai off a balcony. So chooses Ai. The teacher plots revenge. She never tries for real, and even helps Ai defeat some foes.

Ai fights off a catty college student. She tries to show So Ai’s low position by giving So a better watch than Ai. So chooses Ai. Ai chooses the college student, since it’s Christmas and So generally sucks. The college student does nothing of value thereafter. This is the best of the girlfriend sagas, but that’s not saying much.

Ai fights off So’s catty mom. So’s mom is cruel to him, and Ai doesn’t impress her as a girlfriend. Ai tries to make nice, but chooses So over listening to her complain about him. The mom reconciles with her son.

Ai fights off a guy spreading rumors about her. The guy tries to convince So that Ai is dating his best friend. So sees Ai chatting with Yuichiro. Come the next volume, it’s barely mentioned or acknowledged.

Ai fights off So’s forced betrothed. So has to transfer to her school. He never falls for her advances.

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Every time we chop off a plot, a new one regrows as if nothing happened. It does ruin the manga for those who want substance, but it’s a series about a girl who wants to be hot. Substance needs to eat in the alley. But then, I feel like author Kaneyoshi Izumi supplies plenty of substance within her stories. Endings aren’t completely predictable, otherwise shallow characters are compelling, and the very notion that it’s a shallow manga is fascinating.

How many shojo titles have you read where a girl is shy and the guys open her up and make her better? Here, they make her worse. How about manga where rivals lose but stick around, hoping to spring when the time is right? Doubt!! does that too, but in a way that says, “So is a toy that we only want when Ai has him.” And unlike most saccharine manga, Ai’s circle of friends maintains equilibrium, but her circle of foes is as wide as it is meaningless.

Now, I may be a simple youngin’ with unfancy values, but I’m pretty sure this manga had more than Ai and So. Right! Mina is in love with So’s bestie, Yuichiro, but it never goes anywhere and Yuichiro “forgets” that Mina “confessed.” I like these two, and I’m hardly happy they barely get screentime, albeit paneltime since this is a manga.

I’d say if you were to put the characters in that chaotic/neutral/lawful good/neutral/evil chart, Ai would be Lawful Good, Yuichiro True Good, Mina Chaotic Good, and So Chaotic Neutral. So is… oblivious to real emotions… y’know? So is infuriating most of the time because he’s honest, but not necessarily malicious, and because he’s private, which causes trouble. He uses people, mostly Ai, and nothing private ends up being that much of a concern.

Other times, So is great. Like when a snobby clerk was rude to Ai, So bought her and Mina dresses.

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I can’t be too mad at So because there’s enough moments like that.

Then there’s the ending.

Spoilers, for realzies.

Ai fights off the girl So’s engaged to’s catty sister. She apparently looks like Ai, although given the art, who can tell? Seems So only chose Ai because she looks like the girl, who’s the one So chooses. Why? Because she’s more messed up than Ai. Uh. They pull a “meet the loved one at the airport” (while they make fun of us low-class Americans). Say it with me: “So chooses Ai.” The sister leaves Japan, the ex-girlfriends gang up on Ai, and Doubt!! ends.

So, So… Did the author want this to be the ending, but was afraid she’d be cancelled without warning? She says in the last volume that it’s best to read the final chapters since her magazine switched and to read them in one sitting. Yeah, don’t follow that advice. It’s the same plot as usual, just the last one. No resolution for timid Yuichiro, no love for ganguro Mina. This is not how you should end a series, and I don’t blame them for it. It’s tedious in a six-volume set.

But I love it.

Doubt!!’s not drawn fantastically, the characters are a little flat and the plots get noticeably cruder, but it’s hilarious and it represents life we’ve all known. You want the life of the softer shojos, go for it. But if you want something new, something that likely hates you and loves how much it hates you, but is willing to make you laugh, pick up Doubt!!. You will regret it and have the time of your life doing so.

Also, here’s white Mina:

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Nobody in Japan likes ganguro, and America hates Jynx. Is this style gone yet?

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