Gin Tama (Volume 1) Manga | My Reviews 27 APR 2010

Nobody with Naturally Wavy Hair Can Be That Bad – The samurai didn’t stand a chance. First, the aliens invaded Japan. Next, they too all the jobs. And then they confiscated everyone’s swords. So what does a hotheaded former samurai like Sakata “Gin” Gintoki do to make ends meet? Take any odd job that comes his way, even if it means losing his dignity…

Sleazy alien moneylenders, monsters on the rampage, and a ticking time bomb may all be in a day’s work fo Gin, but a drop in blood sugar level means trouble for everyone!

Gin Tama is an interesting animal, that it is. Created by mangaka Hideaki Sorachi and launched back in 2003 already, Gin Tama has gone on to garner great success, constantly finding itself in Japan’s Top Ten Bestseller lists and has since spawned numerous TV, film and light novel extensions.

Set in the historic late Edo period, Gin Tama blends the historic with the current and then takes it one step further and mixes in aliens and sci-fi, making for quite the varied pot from which to pull an almost unending string of visual gags and puns from. Focusing on Gin, a laid back former samurai who has a penchant for violence and hitting things with his wooden sword (which is a lot when his blood sugar is running low), Gin Tama chronicles the various tales of Gin’s little Odd Jobs Gin company that takes on literally any job a customer might bring his way – which of course opens the door quite nicely for almost any sort of adventure, or misadventure that you can think of. Throwing in a young, ineffectual samurai student with glasses and an immoral, born to battle, super strong alien as Gin’s partners, volume 1 introduces us to the main set of characters and then goes on to lead us through three or four quickfire adventures which set the tone of the series, introduce characters and their backgrounds and provides plenty of laughs and action all in one go.

(And as an added bonus, one of Sorachi’s first unpublished manga pieces gets tacked on the end, just as a sample to the other storyline he might have ended up following had he chosen to or been given the go ahead on)

It’s difficult to pinpoint Sorachi’s aim with Gin Tama other than to make you laugh with the variety of visual, self-referencing and situational gags he keeps throwing at you but at the end of the day it is safe to say that Gin Tama is meant entirely as a laugh a minute, forget about your worries type of manga aimed at young men, and in that space it really works pretty well. It is genuinely funny (even if it does exploit some classic gags) and is filled to the brim with some great and energetic action sequences – not forgetting the myriad of misunderstandings that take place of course!

In terms of Sorachi’s pencils (he is responsible both for the writing and main drawing duties), he throws a wonderful amount of detail you way and his characters are all pretty much clean cut and nicely realized with some great old versus new designs – not to mention some particularly wacky hairstyles that Sorachi seems so intent on planting on the top of his villains’ heads.

Action sequences are greatly rendered and there is some nice power on display through his illustrations, as well as some remarkably funny character expressions that literally litter each page. Page compositions are generally quite tightly packed with a lot of panels per page, but the the amount of detail that is crammed into each panel is enough to slow one’s eye down enough that you tend not to miss anything as you read over it. Finally, it must be said that Sorachi certainly seems to have done his period homework and the mixture between drawing old and new in each panel is handled quite fantastically, so much so that it kind of leaves the reader in a rather bewildered state as to exactly which time period they’re currently sitting in – which is precisely what Sorachi imagined in the first place I’m sure.

(His aliens could do with a little more originality though I suppose!)

In summary then, Gin Tama is a really fun read for lovers of action and gags and with not too much drama or heavy handedness dragging it down the whole time, it really does make for some excellent escapist reading material. A fantastic setting that mixes everything together and spits out what is a really action-packed, unexpected experience that will definitely hook you if you fall within Sorachi’s target demographic.

Well worth picking up then in other words, though only if Mills and Boon isn’t particularly your thing! :P

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About Craig Lotter

South African software architect and developer at Touchwork. Husband to a cupcake baker and father to two little girls. I don't have time for myself any more.