Tuxedo Gin Vol. 7
Before I get too far into this review, I have to ask a simple question.
How can you not enjoy a story about a penguin?
Sure, Evangelion was a great series with a complex plot, excellent music, and fantastic action, but would it have become the classic that it is today without the inclusion of PenPen, Misakiís mysteriously intelligent alcohol-imbibing live-in penguin?
I seriously doubt it.
Now there are some who would claim that Evangelion isnít the hot stuff that hoards of anime fans believe it is, but they obviously havenít noticed that itís a series that has stayed in the collective consciousness of fandom for more than ten years. Perhaps they also havenít noticed that itís still selling. Obviously, GAINAX did something right when they produced Evangelion, for something isnít truly exceptional unless it incites even those who donít like it to fill pages upon pages of material concerning it.
And what does this all have to do with Tuxedo Gin? Nothing. I just like Evangelion.
The only reason why Iím only giving this series a score of 3.5 is because I donít feel the story is as fresh as it was in the first few books. This tale stars seventeen-year-old Ginji Kusanagi, a talented boxer who meets the woman of his dreams -- Minako Sasebo -- and then is murdered before they can even have their first date.
Well, the end for Ginji as a human -- for a while, at least. As his spirit leaves his body, he runs into a messenger from the afterlife who informs him that Ginji has suffered a premature death. The powers that be are keen on allowing Ginji to return to his life using a loophole in the rules of reality.
Therein lies the rub. In order to re-enter his human body, Ginji has to live a natural life as another creature (non-human, but more complex than an insect or small reptile) to prepare his spirit for the process. The most significant condition on the spiritual reboot of Ginjiís body is that he is not allowed to take his own life. Likewise, heíll lose his chance at reincarnation into his own body if he willfully goes into a situation expecting death. For example, if Minakoís house is on fire and he enters with the intention of saving her, if he dies in the process, his death would then be final.
Even with all of the complex requirements and the trouble that Ginji knows that he must go through in order to re-attain residence in his own body, his love for Minako is strong, so much so that heíd do anything to live his life with her.
Knowing Minakoís predilection for penguins, Ginji chose to be reborn as one of the slick little flightless animals. Born in captivity, Ginji used his natural gang-leading instincts to convince his fellow penguins to help him escape from the aquarium. He made his way to Minakoís house, and heís been living with her essentially from book one. Occasionally, he receives visits from acquaintances from the water park Ė- such as Mike, the ďgeniusĒ penguin (he understands language) and Nana-chan, a gigantic walrus. Her children have also been known to show up whenever Ginjiís in a tight spot.
Minako is a very trusting and loving person, and when Ginji shows up at her house, she doesnít think twice about taking him in. She names him Gin-chan, which is a pleasant surprise for Ginji, until he learns her justification for the choice. According to her, ďGinĒ comes from the second syllable in penguin, though it is remarkably similar to the name of her lost love, Ginji.
By the time that the seventh volume comes along, heís already discovered to his dismay that penguins have a rather long natural lifespan -- roughly two decades, in fact. Yet since heís a penguin, he gets to share a room, bed, and bath with Minako, and typically, this is enough to keep him happy. Occasionally, another guy attempts to pick up Ginjiís girl, but she remains convinced that heíll return to her again one day.
However long it takes, sheís determined to wait for him to come back to her.
The setup has been firmly established by now, though as I stated above, the story has settled into somewhat of a routine. Many of the best manga series are guilty of this. They often begin with a unique premise, explore the possibilities, toss in an especially harrowing moment here and there, and go on as long as possible. From what I can tell, this is barely the halfway point for Tuxedo Gin, so if itís beginning to wear thin, only true fans of the series will hang on.
The artwork is just a bit better than average -- which isnít meant to imply that it is not worth looking at. Minako is an appropriately lovely lady, and Ginji is undeniably cute in penguin form, but just as the plot doesnít go too far, the manga-ka seems to be more comfortable than experimental.
For many people, this is not a bad way to present a series. With Tuxedo Gin, readers might know what theyíre in store for, but so long as it remains enjoyable, itís worth reading.
Vizís adaptation is smoothly penned, as can be expected from the veteran manga publisher. There are occasional scenes of innocuous nudity which appear to be untouched, which is fantastic. Itís not that the scenes are pivotal to the story, or that theyíre especially well-illustrated, but this sort of simple fan service reminds me that this is a work from another culture, which is a significant part of the fun of reading manga in the first place.
Seeing a naked butt every once in a while is no big deal, but youíd never see it in an American romantic comic book. Then again, youíd be hard pressed to FIND an American romantic comic book coming from one of the mainstream domestic publishing houses.
As I mentioned above, fans still into Tuxedo Gin probably cannot wait to see whatís coming next. Thereís a chance that some people who gave the series a look in the beginning are finding it hard to maintain an interest as the story slows down a little bit, but I have to admit that Iím still keen on the story. Perhaps it has begun to stray down the path of predictability, but Iím interested to see how it ends up.
After all, for Ginji to get his life back, heís going to have to die as a penguin. So either the story will carry on (like Ranma) or it will eventually wrap things up. Perhaps Iíll reevaluate my position on the tale after another seven books have gone by, but for now, Iíll stick with this charming story about a penguin and his true love.
I mean, címon Ė how could I abandon a story about a sentient penguin?