Manga-ka: Yun Kouga
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: June 2009
Synopsis: “After experiencing a crisis of faith, Father Olivier of the Valaria Order decides to go to G and find out the truth behind the legends. Olivier’s journey is unsanctioned, and the head of the Order engages the dark elf Suzu to stop him. As he begins his quest, Olivier encounters Ouri, a young girl from the south who cannot speak. But Ouri reveals another side of herself when Suzu catches up to them!”
Gestalt has been compared numerous times before to an RPG in manga form, and after reading this first volume for myself, it’s very evident as to why. From fantastical magic powers, multi-person party quests and even a stat box for each newly introduced character, Yun Kouga puts a classic fantasy RPG together on paper. But does it work…?
Priest Olivier is out on a quest to find the mysterious, and feared, island known only as G, named for its ruler, a god who betrayed his brethren during the creation of the world. The Priest’s reasons are unknown but a dark elf is sent to retrieve him before it’s too late. To Father Olivier’s service however, comes a slave that he purchases from moral obligation, one who seems as powerful as she is cheeky. Together the two set out on their quest for G, fighting whatever needs fighting along the way.
When Olivier initially meets the slave, Ouri, she’s a mute and unable to speak. If the stat boxes with information on class, magic level and abilities wasn’t enough to emulate the gaming experience, if you will, seeing someone speak through use of written signs only further added to the effect. Yes in manga we’re always reading speech, so for us it poses no difference, but knowing that the characters are reading over hearing still garners the same effect. I thought it was a cute quirk, and thankfully for patience sake was one that wasn’t upheld for long as the need for communication overcame the need for quirkiness.
The priest, for all his main-character-ness, was my favorite character. Easily flustered and timid in his confrontations, I couldn’t help but find myself imbued with a sense of curiousity towards his cause. That said, he’s definitely not the kind of person you’d envision embarking on a quest of any sort of epic nature, which makes it no surprise that someone was so quickly dispatched to bring him home.
Gestalt’s fault however is something I find even with Yun Kouga’s more recent works, and that’s this nonsensical bunk that random portions of the story finds itself. While most of the book read smoothly with little confusion, suddenly I realized I had no idea what was going on. In a few instances a sudden shift from battle to aftermath felt so unresolved and abrupt that I was positive a page or two must’ve been missing. Toss in some vague implication of gender-bending action and you have a book that does a great job of unapologetically throwing its readers for a loop.
Like an actual RPG game, just because you have the right ingredients, doesn’t mean you’ve automatically got a hit on your hands. The characters and basic side quests of Gestalt prove interesting enough on their own, albeit needlessly fanservicey at time, but mixed together they meshed into a fairly amusing, but ultimately unfulfilling, read. I think this one is best left to fans of the manga-ka or reader-gamer hybrids with a true obsession for all things turn-based.