Gloom Party (How to Read Manga series) Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Art Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B-/A
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
  • MSRP: 14.95
  • Pages: 188
  • ISBN: 1-56970956-4
  • Size: A4
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Gloom Party (How to Read Manga series) Vol. #01

By Eduardo M. Chavez     October 09, 2006
Release Date: April 01, 2006

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Kawashima Yoshio
Translated by:G Genki
Adapted by:

What They Say
Learn slang, black humor and the uniquely Japanese comedic rhythm in Yoshio Kawashima's classic Gloom Party, a shorts collection from Shonen Champion Comics. Every four frame strip stands alone, pacing the reader at one lesson per page, one punch line at a time. Features an ensemble cast of colorful recurring characters and their wild adventures.

The Review
The packaging for this title was a little disappointing. Maybe I was spoiled by how DMP treats their other lines. I was expecting to see a dust jacket and the extras that come with that. Here we get a huge A4 sized book that doesn't fit on my manga shelves and is too small for my artbook stacks. There is no dust jacket and the cover is a little bland as it doesn't really show off the twisted nature of the series very well.

The print is clean but since this is a collection of strips their really wasn't much detail to this art anyway. I will say, I was not happy with the white paper. But I am partial to paper that yellows quickly.

Some nice extras include a few additional strips and extended strips. But all the cultural notes really take the cake here.

Kawashima's art is much more impressive than it makes itself out to be. The mangaka has a good sense of form which really shows through when he is drawing the etchier moments. And even though the designs themselves are pretty generic he is able to add in little details to conform to the specific looks of the people he is caricaturing.

As this is a collection of strips layout is almost non-existent. However, Kawashima does a pretty decent job of illustrating scenery and presenting a tone in his panels. This is rarely scene in comics like this and considering the subject matter it really helps get to the punch line faster.

The translation for Gloom Party was schizophrenic for me. On one side this is a title that required extensive note taking because of the nature of the "How to Read Manga" concept. If you are not familiar this idea doesn't really teach readers how to read Japanese. The purpose is to familiarize manga readers with the flow of manga, way SFX and gags work and some of the cultural connotations behind the ink. If I could have graded this title solely on the notes which accompanied every single one of the more than 150 strips, I would have been forced to give this a huge A. However, I noticed something was up with the actual translation of the jokes pretty early on. It is one thing to research old yakuza and ninja movies to get their IMDB information, but to fully understand the meaning behind penis/testicle jokes you have to have told them or experienced them in the past. Miss Genki might not fully understand them and she admits it in the notes at times, but as a reader I would have liked for the translator and maybe the editor to have taken the next step to fill in those holes.

SFX might get some attention as DMP handled these in a unique way. They are not translated at all in the manga. Instead, DMP translates these parallel to the strips. So they translate each of the SFX there providing their phonetic pronunciation and also give details on their meaning.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Everybody loves a party. Show up with a toga on, bring some beers and people are generally ready to roll. The best ones are sometimes the ones we might not completely remember.

Well, if you lived in Kanagawa Prefecture any party is a party you might want to forget. You see if you are from Kanagawa Prefecture you might be living what is called a gloom party as there is nothing to see and rarely anything to do. People seem to always show up, do their thing and drink heavily before leaving in a zombie like fashion in this part of the world. That is what is considered enjoyment there. But if you really want to make the most out of the gloom party you have to make the best out of the worst situations.

Real hardcore gloom party-goers know that this town that used to be nothing but swamps and farmland in this part of the world. And it was not until Yokohama became a major port for the Tokyo Metropolitan Region that Kanagawa, in particular Kawasaki city, became the city it is today. Now it is a town filled with factories, train depots and cheap housing. This is a city that was born as sprawl. The people here either leave early for their jobs in Tokyo or Yokohama or they crawl into their factory jobs like sheep already contemplating what they will eat/drink when the closing whistle blows. If they are poor they know there is nothing on local TV but old ninja/yakuza/samurai shows and movies rerunning since the 70's. There might be the random college rugby or baseball game on, but not much else. The real action is in the abnormal. These locals know that where they will find fun is nowhere most people will even consider looking. The fun in a gloom party is for yourself alone.

Why rent a VHS when you can go peep into the girl's locker room at the local high school/college. If life with the old lady is getting you down, why not upgrade to a young wife. If you are really lucky maybe a good woman will find herself a young (3-year-old) hubby to treat her right! Guys show off their worth by their looks. Big hair, loud clothes and exposed testicles are the biggest thing in a gloom party. Gals like to do show their fashion sense as well. Exposing skin is common in the summer months, but see through outfits can make that a year-long trend!

So you see. If you are a fish monger you might already be living the high life in Kanagawa Prefecture. The variety might be enough to keep you excited. However, if you don't have a 3-year-old wife, you might want to make your own personal version of a good time that fills whatever need you must feed (and make sure no one sees you when you are) for a real good time in a Gloom Party.

DMP advertises this title as a manga where readers can "learn slang, black humor and the uniquely Japanese comedic rhythm". You can definitely learn a bit about the black humor, which has not been seen in this level or format since Viz'sHeartbroken Angels, but I am not too sure about the other two. Slang does not come out well obviously, as context is always lost in translation, moreover having it broken down in a linguistic way doesn't give the pacing and nuance very well. Readers will also have a hard time with the pacing, because of the same "how to read" format.

An interesting element about Gloom Party is the comedic pacing. If you are not familiar with 4-koma manga this will be a tough introduction. The gags are very quick. Often they start off with a visual cue and move on into random Japanese pop-culture (generally from the 70's and 80's). The joke moves quickly to the punch line before it gives readers a creepy twist to close out. This type of comedy is a little mature and very dark. There is a little bit of social commentary here mixed into the outdated pop references. However, with mature comedies rare these days, I wonder if readers will get over the strange testicle and fish jokes. I can imagine the focus will be on the upskirt and peeping tom skits that are sprinkled within this potpourri of perversion.

Gloom Party to me is as much a series about trying to make the most of a depressing situation as it is a strange journal of random lewdness. It is a great example of adult comedy. Possibly not as good looking as ShortCuts but it is as or even more irreverent as Heartbroken Angels. This is romp for those who can learn to appreciate it. Ultimately, though I felt that even translator (and maybe the editor) didn't get all of it. So I wonder if you will.


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