Welcome to Wednesday on Okazu, the day I crash and burn and pass the baton to whomever is standing closest and doesn’t think to run away. Today’s victim Guest Reviewer is the much beloved, admired and bewildered Sean Gaffney! Let’s welcome Sean with this Laurel and Hearty handshake.
Gin Tama is a very successful Shonen Jump series that has been running in Japan since 2004. It’s being released by Viz 6 times a year in their ‘Shonen Jump Advanced’ line (where it is less than successful, but hey, they can’t all be Naruto), and Vol. 13 just came out this month.
The basic premise combines a gag comedy with a samurai action manga. The manga is not afraid to veer wildly back and forth between these – 2/3 of the time it’s stupid self-referential gag manga (Gin frequently can be found reading Shonen Jump, and a recent chapter arc has the characters fighting each other after seeing their rankings in the new popularity poll), but when it gets serious it can be almost Kenshin-esque in its dealings with samurai honor and how one should go about getting revenge.
The main characters are our hero, Gin, a silver-haired samurai (the title Gin Tama is a naughty pun in Japanese); the ‘straight man’ bespectacled Japanese guy, Shinpachi; and Kagura, a superstrong alien who acts like an obnoxious Chinese girl most of the time. Shinpachi also has a sister, Tae (or Otae, depending how formal people are), who is usually sweet and very Japanese until anyone crosses her at all, whereupon she’ll happily throw them into walls – usually while smiling sweetly.
Now, by now I’m sure you’re asking where the Yuri is. This is an Okazu review, after all. In the newest volume out from Viz, Tae is kidnapped by a bishie eyepatched ninja, who we see from flashbacks has known her since childhood. The ninja is Yagyu Kyubei (you may groan here), Tae’s childhood friend. She’s supposed to be confused for male by everyone, but frankly, she’s not drawn in any way that I didn’t immediately think she was female. She has, however, been raised as a male, and has returned after years of rigorous training to fulfill her childhood promise – marry Tae.
Our heroes rush to her rescue, and a huge battle ensues (which continues well into Vol. 14, out in September). This is the usual Gintama battle, being filled with swords and silliness. Kyubei’s gender is noted, as is her being raised as a male, which seems to solve the whole I want to marry Tae thing. However, Kyubei is quite aware that she is female, and is in love with Tae anyway. Further volumes show she tries occasionally to be more feminine (wearing a flower as her eyepatch, for example), but her one-sided love remains true. (Tae thinks of her as a very good friend, mostly, with occasional tease, but as this is a comedy action manga, there aren’t any real pairings anyway). Gin Tama is not really a series to read for the Yuri, as the two characters don’t appear that much. But if you like silly comedy with lots of hard-to-translate Japanese puns and toilet humor, also veering into serious action angst, and frankly not caring if folks break their neck going between the two poles, then there’s some Yuri here for you.
Art – 7. Nice balance between bishie swordsmen and completely idiotic expressions.
Story – 6. As noted, the series veers wildly, but mostly sits in the ‘stupid comedy’ end of things.
Characters – 8. Lots of likeable, fun characters who are enjoyably insane.
Yuri – 4. Kyubei’s feelings are real, in my opinion, but this isn’t going to go anywhere.
Service – 4. There really isn’t much here for Fanboys, as Gintama doesn’t do a lot of fanservice at all.
Overall – 7. A fun Jump manga that caters to fans who wanted to see Kenshin on the toilet reading manga more often. With added Yuri eyepatch ninja girls.
As usual, Sean manages to make it sound good. I tend to pare things down to the problematic core, worry it a bit, then spit it back out. These are complementary skills, I think. ^_^ Thanks Sean! You’ve made me all happy now. Which is good, considering what my next review is on…. ^_^