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What's Gash, anyway?
Konjiki no Gash!! is a manga (comic) by Raiku Makoto running in the magazine Shukan Shonen Sunday. It's currently (October 2006) up to its 25th volume. Two official guides to the manga, titled Konjiki no Gash!! Marukajiri Book and Konjiki no Gash!! Marukajiri Book 2 Okawari, are also available.
Konjiki no Gash Bell!! is an anime (cartoon) series based on the manga of the similar title. It was produced by Fuji TV and Toei Animation, and broadcast on Satuday mornings at nine AM in Japan. The anime ran for 149 episodes and concluded on 26 March 2006. "Visual books" (anime stills edited to manga) are also available, and a movie titled 101-banme no mamono opened in summer 2004 with a sequel, Mecha-Vulcan no gyakushû opening in summer 2005. The anime has spawned many character songs, a trading card game, and several games for the Game Boy Advance, PS2, and GameCube have also been released.
ZatchBell!! is the title of the translated manga and anime. The anime currently runs on Cartoon Network's Toonami slot, while the manga is being publishing by Viz. So far the anime dub have undergone edits and name-changes, but this site shall retain the names of the characters as they appear in the original Japanese.
But what is it about?
It's about a genius middle school student Takamine Kiyomaro, who has an apathetic attitude towards life and is an outsider at his school because of his genius. One day, Kiyomaro meets a mysterious boy calling himself Gash Bell: Gash was found unconscious out in the woods by Kiyomaro's father, and when he came to, he had lost all his memory. The only clue to Gash's identity is the red book he was carrying when he was found, but it contains letters no one can seem to decipher. However, when Kiyomaro looks through the book, he notices that there is one word he can read even if he doesn't know the letters, and when he reads the word thunder comes out of Gash's mouth!
It turns out Gash is a monster ("mamono") boy from a world called "makai" (roughly, "demon world"), and that he has been sent to the human world along with 99 other monster children to fight out a battle for who will be the next king of "makai". All the monster children have their own books, which will enable them to use magic when they find the right humans to read them. Monster children keep coming to Gash and Kiyomaro to beat them ... will the apathetic Kiyomaro decide to help Gash at all? And if he does, will Gash and Kiyomaro be able to defeat them and will Gash become the next king?
From here on it's entirely my opinion, but the trick of Gash the series is that it takes a quite standard plot device and makes it not a story about saving the world, but about self-discovery. Does Gash even want to be king? If so, what kind of a king? What about the other monster children, and their humans? What are their motivations for working together? The series digs deep into these inner motives and gives satisfactory answers to why each and every one of its characters chooses to fight (or not fight).
And besides, it's hilariously funny! It's been described as a show that makes people cry one moment, and immediately after laugh their asses off. Please, if this intrigues you, pick it up. I'm sure you won't regret it.
Who is Raiku Makoto?
Raiku Makoto debuted with the short story Birdman in 1991, when he was 17. After his debut, he worked as an assistant to Fujita Kazuhiro (of Ushio to Tora fame) while he wrote a number of one-shots. Genmai Blade, a series of one-shots, gained him enough popularity and allowed him to write his first series, New Town Heroes, which ran from March 1999 to August 2000 in Shonen Sunday Super (a monthly supplement to Shukan Shonen Sunday). He began Konjiki no Gash Bell!! in January 2001, and won the 48th Shogakukan Mangashô (sort of a book prize for manga) in 2003 for it.
On a more "personal history" level, Raiku-sensei was born August 23rd (in 1974?) in Gifu prefecture in Japan. His bloodtype is B. What you see on the right is his self-portrait. According to the short manga he writes about himself at the end of his comics, he loves futon and sleeping, and is forever on a diet. According to an interview in KnG!! volume seven (read it here), his goal is to write manga which children can understand and which can make everyone happy.
Aside from Konjiki no Gash!!, the only tankôbon (graphic novel) he has published is Genmai Blade -- collected short stories of Raiku Makoto (cover scan on the left, back-cover here). It contains the following manga:
-- Genmai Blade (series of three one-shots)
-- Yurine Great
-- Aishû Hero Babaan
-- Birdman (debut)
I'm sure all Gash fans will be able to recognize the same hot passion of Gash in these early short stories, but oddly enough, none of these are very comical except Aishû Hero Babaaan. Which is, in turn, a hilarious spoof of heroes like Superman. I'm very happy Raiku-sensei decided to carry over the humour into Gash, as it definitely gives his work an extra something.
Where can I get it?
Cartoon Network is broadcasting an English dub of the anime as ZatchBell!! in the US, so check local listings. DVDs with English and Japanese dubs are also available. Viz is publishing an English translation of the manga under the Zatch Bell!! title. Games and merchandises are also available.
If you understand Japanese, the tankôbon (graphic novels) of the manga should be available to order from any store carrying Japanese books. They each cost about 400 yen (roughly US$4), but you will have to add shipping, handling, and taxes to this price if you live outside of Japan.
DVDs of the anime series and movies are also available in Japan. Volume one includes episode 1 and 2 and is sold for 2700 yen (roughly US$25), and subsequent volumes include three episodes each and are 3800 yen (roughly US$35) each. Again, these should be available to order in stores carrying Japanese goods.