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Danielle Leigh's Reading Diary -- Gestalt vol 1

Yun Kouga's Gestalt imitates the format of a role-playing fantasy quest narrative, where characters are rated by power level and spell casting ability, but somewhere itching to get out is a narrative about the fall of an angel.

Gestalt's plot is set into motion when a priest, Father Oliver, abandons his holy order to search out the mysterious island "G."  The island G is actually the refuge of a former god who waged war against the ultimate God, Salsaroa, the one who ruled over the other original seven gods.  "G" (or "Gestalt") lost his war against Salsaroa, but like Father Oliver, we are left to wonder why he rebelled and if rebellion against the ultimate God makes him "evil."  Likewise, if "G" (the island, named after the fallen god) is such an evil place why is Father Oliver -- a good, compassionate man -- seeking such a place out?  Of course, all good pilgrims must be tested and since this is a fighting comic, emissaries are deployed to stop Oliver to slow him down by any means necessary (but not stop him since then there would be no comic).

On his dangerous quest Father Oliver picks up an important and truly flamboyant companion -- Ouri is first introduced as a mute and powerless slave, but in short order it is revealed she is much more than she appears to be.  After Father Oliver uses his limited powers to free Ouri and her voice, she openly flaunts her voluptuous body and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of power.  It is hinted that Ouri has significant connections to the original 8 gods -- perhaps even being one herself? -- and the mystery of why she deigns to accompany and protect the rather innocent and comparatively weak Father Oliver deepens.

While after the first few chapters the role-playing aspects of the comic are downplayed (no longer are characters introduced with their own text box explaining their magic ability level and spell capabilities) but that means the story loses a bit of its cohesion.  Oliver and Ouri are beset by fighting challenge after fighting challenge and sometimes the depiction of battles between our pilgrim priest, his mysterious companion Ouri, and their various adversaries, gets a little confusing.  At times, former enemies are turned into friends, but why these folks change sides, as it were, isn't entirely clear.  Ouri has no end of manipulative schemes up her sleeve, but everyone else's characterization is confused or incoherent.

Yet, I must admit one of the most entertaining aspects of the comic is the depiction of the non-gendered (but very *cough* womanly) Ouri, who is outrageously inappropriate.  She's a bit of a trickster, a warrior, a tease, and a smug bully all rolled into one.  Her one redeeming quality appears to be her devotion to Oliver, but considering how much Ouri is hiding, chances are she may be cheerfully, and without a single pang of conscience, using Oliver to further her own agenda.  Whatever that agenda may be...

Gestalt has some obvious faults, particularly its uneven narrative structure, but in terms of tone it is surprisingly light and humorous considering the subject matter.  The art is a little dated, but still quite attractive with flowing, dynamic lines that suit this fantasy tale quite beautifully.

Review Copy provided by Viz.

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