Kodansha Comics has brought a brand-new manga series, this one more wild and crazy than usual. Time to jump into a doggie bodysuit and ramp up the violence, ’cause here comes the first volume of Gleipnir. Is it good?
According to the official description from Kodansha Comics:
Shuichi Kagaya [sic] an ordinary high school kid in a boring little town. But when a beautiful classmate is caught in a warehouse fire, he discovers a mysterious power: he can transform into a furry dog with an oversized revolver and a zipper down his back. He saves the girl’s life, sharing his secret with her. But she’s searching for the sister who killed her family, and she doesn’t care how degrading it gets: she will use Shuichi to accomplish her mission…
The Initial Reaction
Some say you only get one chance to make a first impression and oh boy, does Gleipnir Vol. 1 make a first impression. I opened the first page to someone shouting, “I’ll kill you, you heartless bitch!” immediately followed by a panty/camel toe shot. It just kind of paints a picture when all is said and done.
But as the first chapter passed, I got comfortable with the book. Then my enthusiasm kept going up and down on the first volume like a sound wave. In the end, I found the book to be rather underwhelming and lacking. It just doesn’t have the metaphorical punch or hook to it that would leave me wanting more.
The first volume of Gleipnir felt oddly stretched out, almost to its detriment. It was very similar to the opening or first two chapters of a new shonen manga series. Introduce the characters, the situation, and an antagonist force, toss in some action to show how the fighting works, and hint at what’s to come. We get all of that, but stretched out across 190 pages or so. As such it comes across very decompressed, and the pacing can be rather slow despite the energy and intensity in a lot of the scenes.
Now, a manga taking its time to fully develop its characters and story is not necessarily a bad thing, even in a first volume. Perhaps stretching out the first two chapters of a regular series over five isn’t a bad idea. However, I don’t think the creator, Sun Takeda, did a good enough job justifying the pace of the story. We’re just dropped into the middle of a story already in progress in some sense, while some plot points and ideas, such as this mysterious vending machine or Alice’s sister, aren’t given enough focus to really click. They’re just dropped in front of us with what feels like little fanfare, and the manga quickly moves forward. It’s very much like the average first chapter in a manga series, but that’s usually fine when it’s just one chapter. When there’s more room to work with, it feels like the manga could strive to be more engrossing or do more.
But then there are the two main characters, and neither are particularly great. Shuichi is our protagonist, cursed with this mascot wolf body out of nowhere and in a state of depression. He’s always gone with the flow and with this new, weird body that he can somewhat control, he’s not sure what to do with his life. There is a side to him that is heroic enough, since he throws himself into danger to rescue Claire early on. However, there is also the fact he almost rapes her right afterwards in this animalistic state, and he later breaks into her locker, sniffing her clothes and getting a hard-on… it takes away from him as well. He’s somewhat sympathetic, but those scenes really hurt and paint him in a way that I really don’t think was necessary in the slightest.
Then we have Claire Aoki, the mysterious girl Shuichi saved from burning to death. She has a death wish, whether it be because her sister killed their parents or that no one believes monsters truly exist. However, running into our male lead, she finds a reason for living, seeing him as the solution to figuring out what’s going on. She’s manipulative, mean-spirited at times, and really forward. In her own way, later on, she abuses Shuichi, taking control of his body against his will and forcing it/him to kill someone. She’s not very pleasant or someone you want to read about. In a way, both leads are similar, damaged people with definite ugly traits. They are defined enough, but the writing just doesn’t do enough for me personally to latch onto either of them.
The writing doesn’t really click either. There’s no supporting cast at this point since there’s very little focus on anyone but the two leads. There are hints at mysterious forces in the world, but we don’t know who they are or what they want. The tone of the book goes for depressing, downbeat, kind of edgy vibes throughout, which the manga does well. It’s very bleak about its situation and everyone is kind of miserable, whether they outwardly show it or not. Humor doesn’t land since it feels almost out of place or the jokes don’t make much sense. Everything else, from the dialogue to the pacing, is functional but doesn’t stand out. That’s pretty much the problem here with this book. It just doesn’t offer anything particular engrossing.
The artwork is perfectly fine in its style, but like a Michael Bay production, you’re left wondering about its direction. The design of the mascot monster form Shuichi has looks cool. It’s adorable but utterly vicious and intimidating when detailed in the right way. Plus, the transformation detailing is impressive with how Shuichi fades in and out of his monster form. It’s the big highlight I find in the art. The characters are all decently designed as well as distinguishable from one another. Facial expressions can leave a lot to be desired though, since everyone almost always has the same expression. There are some nicely depicted shots within the book as well that do have impact to them, like the shot of Claire’s sister or the literal “shot” in the book.
But then come the action and panel angles used in the manga. The action is stilted. Each shot and blow looks powerful, but they don’t have much flow that would really emphasize their impact. It feels like a lot is missing between the panels that would make things better. Then there’s the loads of fan service. The panels love focusing in on Claire and any other female characters’ chests, asses, or tight clothing, going for tight close-ups. The book opened with a crotch shot of a girl on the very first page for instance, signalling everything you need to know about how shameless this series is. The fan service doesn’t work either, since it feels very sleezy and creepy while also interfering with the book’s tone. The manga tries to have some serious moments or drama, but then it’ll take a moment to focus in a girl’s underwear or chest. It doesn’t work.
Is It Good?
Gleipnir Vol. 1 is not very good. There are ingredients within the manga that could make for an interesting, dark action series for sure, especially backed up by some stylish art and decent monster designs. But it feels undercooked with how little happens and the copious amounts of fan service take way too much away from the tone. The book felt like it should have had intrigue and more to offer, but it ultimately leaves a lot on the table.
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