Gestalt 1-3 by Yun Kouga: B-

gestalt1Our story begins when Father Olivier, a priest of gentle temperament, abruptly resigns from his order and begins a journey to an island known as G. There’s a legend that a god, Gestalt, cast out from his brethren, was exiled there and will grant the wish of any explorer who seeks him out. For some reason, the head of Olivier’s order, Father Messiah, is rather desperate to get him back, and sends dark-elf Suzu in pursuit. Meanwhile, a mute slave girl is bestowed upon Olivier as an innkeeper’s thank-you gift for blessing her garden. He attempts to decline the gift, but the girl points out that she might wind up with a truly cruel master were she sold again, so he reluctantly accepts.

When Suzu catches up to them, Olivier dispels the enchanted silence that’s been laid on the slave girl, who is then free to use her magic. She introduces herself as Ouri, and is extremely vague about her origins at first, though information gradually trickles out about the game in which she is apparently engaged with her six siblings and for which she’s been handicapped by various means. Instantly fond of her kind “master,” Ouri decides to accompany Father Olivier on his journey rather than devote her attentions to the game, though her siblings do tend to pop up anyway. On the way, they’re joined by Suzu and Shazan, a fortune-teller who’s intrigued by another consciousness that seems to be housed within Ouri as well as a demonic vibe around Olivier.

gestalt2While we start off with quite a few mysteries, information is doled out at a satisfying pace. There’s still a lot that we don’t know about Ouri, but by the third volume we’ve got a general idea. The supporting characters get some development—Shazan’s surprising past comes to light and Suzu is victorious over her dismissive sisters, responsible for casting her out from her clan—and we also learn the reason for Gestalt’s banishment and Father Messiah’s concern for Olivier, after whom he now sends a second tracker. Though Olivier’s position as protagonist was almost immediately eclipsed by Ouri, the revelation that the dark presence within him is coming unsealed reasserts his significance to the story, though the narrative is more focused on how Ouri deals with things than how Olivier does.

Though it’s entertaining enough, I wouldn’t yet say that Gestalt is actually truly compelling in any way. The major problem seems to be that it’s determined not to be taken seriously. In the second and third volumes, the plot is frequently interrupted by side stories about Christmas or trips to the beach (complete with blatant fanservice), which are particularly jarring when inserted between chapters dealing with Olivier’s dark side and the damage it inflicts. Another issue is the lack of genuine emotional reactions from the characters: this is one of those series where characters demonstrate their anger by shaking a fist and sprouting a fang for a panel or two. Also, potentially shocking news about Ouri is absorbed with nary a ripple of surprise from her traveling companions and her siblings are uniformly dull. Some would add to this list of gripes the RPG-like stats and damage assessments that crop up from time to time. I grant that talk of “leveling up” takes one out of the story, but I personally find this aspect of the tale kind of fun.

gestalt3Though the cover art was drawn as part of the packaging for a reissue and therefore looks more modern, the interior art possesses that indefinable quality that betrays its ’90s origins (Father Messiah, for one, seems to have copied the hairdo of Nokoru from CLAMP Campus Detectives). It’s also, as I described it on Twitter, “boobalicious.” Every female wears impossibly skimpy garb, and though Kouga-sensei seems to be making fun of fanservice at times, there’s still a lot of it. I also note that sometimes the boobs are strangely asymmetrical; check out the cover of volume three for an example.

Overall, Gestalt is by no means a masterpiece. If certain elements were excised—the fanservice, the pointless bonus chapters, and Ouri’s siblings—and others improved, then perhaps it might have a chance. Otherwise, the best that it could ever hope to achieve is “decent.” And yet, even though I find that I can’t really care about any of the characters, I’m still interested to learn the truth behind the remaining mysteries. As long as I don’t make the mistake of expecting too much, it’ll probably be enjoyable.

Review copies provided by the publisher.

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  1. Danielle Leigh says

    Yes, to everything you said. The outside covers make me so hopeful (vol 2 in particular is SO lovely) but the inside? big sigh.


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