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.
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.
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.
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.