Gestalt is a frenetic blend of unconventional character relationships and Japanese role-playing game sensibility, with all the trouble that combination can bring in comic form.
Writer/Artist: Yun Kouga
Translation: Christine Schilling
Adaptation: Christine Schilling
What They Say
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' was originally released in Japan from 1992 until 2001 in Square-Enix's Monthly GFantasy magazine. The plot and style of the story betray its origins by being unabashedly inspired by role-playing video games. The Viz edition is from a 2005 re-release and features updated cover artwork that doesn't quite match the style of the aged comic. It does provide an interesting look at how the creator's artwork has changed over the last twenty years.
The cover features Ouri in an elaborate yet skimpy outfit with the title along the right hand edge. Viz tries to draw in Yun Kouga's newer fans by putting 'From the Creator of Loveless' under her name on the bottom right. The cover art is colorful and attractive, with a story blurb on the back cover against a monochromatic halftone version of the art used on the front. The print quality is the standard for a Viz Media title, with decent paper and solid blacks. There are a few pages on which art that was once in color has been changed to grays that look muddy, but this is most likely an unavoidable problem.
The comic's art is very much a product of early '90s manga. Characters have rough angular designs that never seem to look the same twice. There's still a charm to the designs, and Ouri's hair and ever-changing wardrobe are especially fascinating. The art style shifts from dramatic, hyper-realistic monsters to super-deformed caricatures during comedy bits. The panel layout also changes depending on story elements. Some of the fight scenes are confusing, with large swaths of speed lines and other tone effects.
The story reads smoothly with no noticeable errors. The sound effects have been retouched into English. This volume also contains a brief afterword by the author about this edition. The first printing includes several glossy color pages of artwork at the beginning of the book.
Father Olivier sets out on his journey to find the Land of G and discover the mystery of the legend of that cursed land, against the wishes of his religious order. An elf named Suzu is sent to bring him back, but before she can do so Olivier finds himself the owner of a slave named Ouri. Ouri claims to be from the Land of G, and that's where his trouble starts.
When a fantasy manga starts off by introducing it's characters with pull-out boxes of text that detail their base statistics, it makes you question whether someone spent too much time on a SNES once upon a time. 'Gestalt' is shameless in its use of standard video game and fantasy design elements. Ouri, herself, is in a deadly game with her brothers and sisters, all of whom are gunning for her in a battle that seems to be more than sibling rivalry. When their journey takes them through a kingdom where a cage battle against a monster is all the rage, Ouri discovers one of her brothers, Soushi, is involved. Suzu arrives and a simple competition turns into a multi-way fight with spells flying back and forth.
As the story moves on, Suzu joins the party, along with a fortune teller named Shazan. Against Ouri, Suzu is powerless to force Olivier to return and can only attempt to cajole him into submission. Shazan's motivation for accompanying them is unclear and Ouri wastes no time pointing out her suspicions.
Ouri's complete devotion to Olivier seems genuine and highly suspect at the same time. Ouri frequently addresses him as master and hangs all over him. In any other character this would annoy me. Ouri is a strange case: tough as they come, totally bloodthirsty, and oddly loyal. The pacing here is very fast and several chapters take place after an undetermined amount of travel time has passed. It makes the flow of the story jumpy as some details of character development seem brushed by in the process.
By the end of the volume, the group has encountered another of Ouri's siblings, sister Takara. Takara goes right after Ouri's weakness and kidnaps Olivier. But Takara gets more than she bargained for, as Olivier has a darkness in him that emerges at the end of the volume, which leaves off with a cliffhanger.
Reading 'Gestalt' is a trip back in time, for better or worse. There are some interesting characters buried under the poorly constructed monster fights and weird spell level panels. There are plenty of questions to answer regarding both Ouri and Olivier, and their relationship with each other is surprisingly engaging. Unfortunately, it makes the surrounding nonsense and slapstick bickering tiring. From this first volume the story could go either way, but for now it's a guilty pleasure for nostalgic RPG players and Yun Kouga's fans.