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Gin Tama, Volume 1


Note:

It took me forever, but I finally finished it! Gin Tama volume 1! And the thing is, I really enjoyed the story, it just took me forever to read it. I lost the book twice…I kept getting interrupted by people and life in general…and finally, today at 4:27, I was able to finish it after browsing people’s pages in Deviant Art and watching Youtube….

What have I become! Unemployment sucks!

But in a way, I guess I can parallel myself with the dudes in Gin Tama.

….Wha?

Naw, but seriously, this manga’s great. Everyone’s unemployed, down on their luck, money wise, and a smart ass. Really, I can’t believe this manga came out in 2003, cause it’s reflecting our own predicament here in the States (and I hear Europe’s not doing so well right now, either. We’ll pull through!)

Okay, so you’re probably thinking, “what the hell is she ranting on and on about?” Well, I’ll tell you! This is a manga set in a future where aliens have taken over the earth, and as a result, humans are pretty much out of the loop when it comes to the economy and, you know, living well in general.

But, alas, I’m getting ahead of myself. You need a synopisis, don’t ya? Let’s get this show on the road, then!

*This review has spoilers. Nothing major, but a few. Proceed with caution!*

Gin Tama, Volume 1-Recommended

Mangaka: Hideaki Sorachi
Copyright: 2009 (3rd printing/trans)
Genre: Shounen, Sci/fi, Action, Comedy
Chapters:

  • Lesson 1: Nobody with Naturally Wavy Hair can be Bad
  • Lesson 2: Responsible Owners should Clean Up after Their Pets
  • Lesson 3: Watch Out! Weekly Shounin Jump Sometimes comes out on Saturdays!
  • Lesson 4: People who make Good First Impressions Usually Suck
  • Lesson 5: Make Friends you  can call by Their Nicknames, Even when You’re an Old Fart
  • Lesson 6: If You Jerks have enough Free Time to Spread Terror, You’d Better go walk Your Dog, Pero.

 

Summary:

In some kind of insane, alternative history warp zone, Japan has been invading and taken over by aliens from space–rather than, oh say Matthew Perry (no, not the dude from Friends, but boy that would’ve been great to see,) but rather true aliens who take over not only Japan, but also the world. In doing so, humans become second class citizens, samurais and swords are still outlawed in Japan (which I think they’re calling Edo, cause that’s when this takes place…sorta…I dunno, it’s all out of whack,) and humans are basically kinda pushed aside in their own world.

So that’s the setting.

Here’s the story:

After their father dies of illness, Shinpachi Shimura and his sister, Otae, are stuck paying the bill for their old man’s doujou, which holds significant meaning for Otae. Shinpachi’s got a chip on his shoulder. He’s pissed that his dad’s dead and all they have is his debt. No doubt, he might be a little cheesed that his sister seems to be daddy’s favorite, too. But this isn’t the major theme of the manga–just some little observations I’ve made.

Anyway, to try to pay for the rent, Shinpachi gets a job, which goes sour when a rouge samurai/odd jobs for hire dude wrecks the cafe and kills a rude ambassador from the Chatoran. This guy is Gintoki, a former samurai who’s traded his swords in for…uh, well, he doesn’t use them cause the world’s changed and now it’s against the law. So he’s taken to doing various jobs in order to earn cash. Well, Shinpachi loses his job because of all the ruckis, and holds Gin responsible. From here on, the two’s future gets entwined and Shinpachi begins living with Gin. They are later joined by the Yato alien, Kagura, and meet an old friend of Gins, Katsura. Many little adventures are had, but never is the rent really paid to Mrs. Otose.

Pros and Cons: Story and Content

Characters:

The characters are all very unique, which is good. Their differences help to compliment one another and adds variety to the story. The characters themselves a little stereotypical in some ways, but not so much that they don’t carry a life of their own. I mean, it’s like how Final Fantasy has all those job classes, like the black mages, red mages, and white mages; the warriors, samurai, monks, and all that. In each game, they have the same classes, but the characters are different.

Same idea here. Same character type, but different people.

Shinpachi’s the straight-man here. He just does not joke around, man, he can’t do it. Yet, often he’s the butt of the jokes, or in this case, the slap-stick. Gin’s the slacker, joker kind, and well…Kagura? Where does she fit in all this? She’s not exactly your stereotypical “girl love interest” you usually see–at least not in this volume…who knows what’ll happen in the future volumes. Anything.

ANTYHING.

But anyway, I guess my point is that it’s a colorful cast, and their comments and personalities really help make this a fun manga.

With the other characters, like the side characters and such, you really see how depraved society is getting. It’s kinda everyman for himself, and that’s indicative of what the Amanto have really done to the planet. By imposing something of a cast system upon Edo, the crime rate’s raised, you’ve got the yakuza running around, and terrorists trying to regain their country (in which case, are these dudes really terrorists? Well…if innocents get hurt, then yet, but if not, then we can liken Katsura and his men to Avalanche in FFVII…no Barret, though, and that’s just too bad.) Well, the way in which everyone treats one another shows how corrupt the aliens have made things–and gives you reason to see why some (or most) would want them gone. Or at least some fair laws put in place, right?

Ain’t got no cons for this one (yes, I sure did use improper English. What you gonna do about it? Punks!?)

Story:

The story’s great for a couple reasons. (1) It’s funny. (2.) There’s more going on here than meets the eye. (3.) The world/setting offers an endless possibilities of outcomes and stories.

Okay, now I’ll go into detail about each thing I numbered.

  1. It’s really off the collar comedy. I mean some is slap-stick (people, especially the main characters, are constantly getting hit.) There’s a lot of sarcasm, too. Everyone’s a smart-ass: but not in an exasperating way. In a funny way 🙂
    .
    It’s also just so out there, so ridiculous at times, that you’re just can’t help but find it funny.. Lots of melodramatic over reacting in this one: stuff that’ll make you laugh. Some of things I found hilarious? Well, you’ll need to read the whole comic, but I’ll leave you with a few kernels of comedy, just go to the following pages: 118, 154, and 159. I really like the “Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap” allusion on page 159. Just picturing AC/DC in the midst of this story got me laughing–they don’t make an appearance, but that’s what I thought of when I read it.
    .
  2. More than meets the eyes (no, I’m not talking about Transformers.) Although this is a comedy, as well as an action/adventure manga, there’s some other stuff going on here. I touched upon a lot of it in the summary. I’m talking about the economic stuff and the second class citizen stuff. But there’s also some things I didn’t mention. A play on words, so to speak. Little history lesson really quick, in case you don’t know much about Japan’s history (which, if you’re reading a manga site, you probably know this, but just in case, here it is.)
    .
    It’s the year 1853, the Victorian Era in other words (Romantic in the US, but we were influenced by England in fashion and life-style.) The Japanese have had 200 years of isolation: refusing to trade with any of Europe…except the Dutch..and even they had to stay on an island off the coast of mainland Japan (they weren’t allowed on any of the main islands.) Matthew Perry, of guess, where? Yeah, the US, rolls up on the tide with four warships carrying cannons and puts on a nice demonstration of their power. The result? Well, gives them an offer they can’t refuse, wanting them to open up for trade with the US. The next year he comes back with treaty papers they have sign and voila! Japan’s been cracked open like an oyster for her pearls…Okay I went a little crazy with the metaphor there, but you get the idea.
    .
    Well, Japan was also forced to sign other unfair treaties where taxes and tariffs and the like were controlled more by the US than Japan. They’re not the only ones things like this happened to–I mean, a lot of other Asian nations were experiencing similar things (look at China with the British and all that.) But this is the back drop for Gin Tama. Here, the “aliens” are really aliens. So there’s the play on words. Get it! Ha ha! Dangly parts! Sorry, some of my old Cartoon Network stuff coming out (uh, back before they started to SUCK!)
    .
    Okay, back to the story. That’s going on it, but there’s also a camaraderie forming between the characters. Though they outwardly kinda treat each other like assholes, when it comes down to it, they do care what happens to one another. So it still fits into the whole shounen genre (uh, yeah, and it has a bit of action to it, too. That helps define it as shounen.)
    .
  3. Last up, I said that the world offers up endless possibilities of outcomes. Yeah, it’s pretty obvious what I’m saying here, but let me explain. Unlike a historical manga, this one is not bound by the conventions of its era. Yes, it’s set in the Edo era, however, as a work of science fiction, its far more unique. It has the opportunity to expand and break boundaries. There’s plenty of options for adventure, because the world has been changed in such a way (by the introduction of extraterrestrial life) that anything is possible. Even electronics in the Edo period. The result is a work that’s open to becoming a really interesting series. This isn’t to say I don’t like historical fiction/manga, but with science fiction, you really have a chance to build amazing worlds and things that really haven’t been seen before. So it’s new, in a sense.

Pros and Cons: Art

I’m satisfied with the art here. It’s decent, you know, and it’s very dramatic–which is fitting for the story. What do I mean by dramatic? Well, lots of focus lines (20, 22, 26, 29, 30, 51, 67, etc…) And, lots of screaming people (see the pages I just listed…and then some. And…lots of intense facial shading from time to time (10, 32, 51, 88, etc.) But even though there’s a lot of dramatic poses and shading (also known as value in the art world, fyi,) everything is well proportioned and well balanced. Plus, there’s some AWESOME dynamic “screen shots,” or panel perspectives.

Case in point? You’ve guessed it, I’ve got a list. Where did I put it….ah! Okay, I’m going back to page 22, right, and in the bottom panel we have Otae kicking Shinpachi. The perspective is drawn in good proportion according to the distance between Otae and Shinpachi–all in relation to where they lie in the panel, of course. So we’ve got Shinpachi’s face really big and distorted where the foot’s impacted his face, but we got Otae small in comparison to him. On page 42, the first panel, we’ve got a nice, simple bird’s eye view of Gin and Shinpachi on the scooter traveling, and on 82 there’s a great shot from on high, looking down on Chief Hasegawa. So I was impressed with the dynamics Sorachi shows us in his work.

Bravo! You get not a single complaint. 😀

Conclusion:

I’m personally quite happy with this manga. Yeah, it took me forever to finish reading it, but that was pretty much because I kept losing it and then forgot what was going on (I had to like two or three other reviews in place of it since I lost it! Sheesh…) If you like action, and you like sci/fi, and you like samurai, then you’ll probably like this manga. I thought it was funny.

Gin Tama, Volume 1-Recommended!

Citations:

Sorachi, Hideaki. Gin Tama. Trans. Matthew Rosin. Vol. 1. San Francisco: VIZ MEDIA, 2009.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. History of Japan: End of Seclusion. 27, August, 2010.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Japan. 2010.

Posted in Blog: Cerulean Sessions, Blue's Reviews. Tagged with , , , .

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