Zatch Bell (aka: Konjiki no Gash!!) Vol. #04 (Mania.com)

By:Jarred Pine
Review Date: Thursday, January 12, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, December 13, 2005



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Makoto Raiku
Translated by:David Ury
Adapted by:

What They Say
A harrowing battle with a new foe results in a startling revelation that could offer more clues to Zatch's past! And when Kiyo goes to see a famous pop star in concert, things go horribly off-key when not one but two mamodo show up to tangle with Zatch and Kiyo!

The Review
Zatch Bell continues with more mamodo battles, but it’s the oddball characters, bizarre yet distinctive art style, and overall charm of this shounen creature battle manga that wins me over.


Packaging:
VIZ uses the same cover artwork as the Japanese tankoubon, with the color printing looking bright but possibly a bit muted. The print reproduction is adequate, which some smudging and a little bit of fading with the heavy black tones. Extras include one strip panel of “Zatch & Suzy”, which are always odd and humorous.

Art:
Makoto Raiku’s artwork is not what I would call pretty, but it is one of the more unique styles I’ve seen. The art style is both visually creative as well as humorous, featuring a lot of hard angles, wide faces, and strange facial features. There are a lot of over-exaggerated facial expressions and deformed designs that really play well into the bizarre sense of humor and intense action sequences, which are quite explosive with an interesting use of strong action lines. I only wish there were some full-page panels during the more climatic scenes. Being an action title, the backgrounds can be quite sparse and are pretty simple.

Text/SFX:
SFX have been translated and retouched. The retouch has some boxing going on and I’m not a big fan of the fonts that are used. The translation reads quite well and keeps the oddball sense of humor. Kiyo’s and Suzy’s names remain slightly altered from the original (Kiyomaro/Suzume).

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
The battle for Mamodo King continues on with only 70 mamodo left in the competition for the throne. Zatch and Kiyo have had their hands full, defeating 6 out of the 30 defeated mamodo. In this volume, Zatch and Kiyo will have to face off against two more mamodo foes, as well as help a mother-in-law-to-be find her future daughter-in-law, pass an exam given by a tyrant teacher, and make friends with a famous idol and her mamodo. Zatch Bell is very much a shounen manga, but its oddities in characters, humor, and artwork continue to win me over.

As with previous volumes, there are two more mamodo battles here in this volume. This is a shounen battle manga, so having at least 2-3 battles per volume should be expected. If reading through battle after battle is a cumbersome task for you, then the story could run the risk of becoming a bit stale. What is nice about the battles in Zatch Bell is that even though they do take the main stage and are quite frequent, there are small bits of development with Kiyo and Zatch that progress with each battle. Against the ice sculpting, laser beam equipped mamodo Robnos, Kiyo demonstrates his quick wits and sharp analytical skills while trying to come up with a plan to use the mamodo’s great strength against him. The two also seem to be working together even more as a team.

The other mamodo battle takes place at an idol concert that Kiyo and Suzy attend, this time featuring 3 mamodo including Zatch. One of the mamodo is named Tia, whose book reader is the idol performing at the concert, Megumi. Tia has a bit of a history with Zatch, as she used to constantly pick on him back in their mamodo world, which Zatch of course has no recollection of at all, and refers to him as being “weak”. Zatch’s supposed weakness has been called out by quite a few mamodo now, leading them into false pretenses about Zatch’s strength when they come to attack. Making his move against Tia is the mamodo Maruss, a former friend of Tia’s that has now turned against her in this battle which pits friend against friend. This has left Tia unable to trust anyone, so it is no surprise that she does not trust Zatch when he comes to her aid against Maruss. Together, Zatch and Kiyo help Tia fight off Maruss as Tia watches on the sidelines in shock at how brave and strong Zatch has become.

The humor is not quite as whacky and bizarre as it has been in previous volumes, but it is still very much a successful part of this title. The chapter following Zatch during his daily routine, interacting with the world in a manner that only Zatch could, is quite humorous and extremely silly (in a good way). Unfortunately, it is during this chapter that the volume’s one and only artwork edit has occurred--this time once again covering Zatch’s crudely drawn genitals with boxers while he’s doing the fish dance.

Comments
First and foremost, Zatch Bell is a battle manga that is steeped in shounen themes and storylines that are quite familiar. What makes this manga standout to me are the oddities found in the characters, artwork, and humor that continues to leave a grin on my face for almost the entire volume.

Zatch’s past is still clouded in a lot of mystery, with the only thing we know for sure is that he is regarded as the weakling amongst his peers. As with Kanchome in the previous volume, we again see Zatch’s development and increasing strength validated through the eyes of another mamodo. Zatch in turn is becoming quite the inspiration for other mamodo with his quest to become the kind king.

In between the battles there are some stand-alone chapters that are very quirky and silly, but really help bring out what makes Zatch Bell its own amongst the sea of other battle creature manga. It’s not going to challenge or require much effort to read, nor present rich, three-dimensional characters, but it does entertain. And really, that’s all I’m really asking for.



Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B-
Text/Translatin Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 200
ISBN: 1-4215-0282-8
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left