JOHNNY B, DOIN' THAT MANGA SHUFFLE PART THREE!
A while back, I reviewed a couple of manga titles from Digital Manga Publishing, and in that review I happened to mention another title I saw whilst perusing their website, by the name of BAMBI AND HER PINK GUN, by Atsushi Kaneko, thought it looked interesting, and made a note to check it out someday. I didn't notice on the webpage that it wasn't coming out till June, though. However, unbeknownst to me, the Schwartz was with me. Tom Schwartz, that is, my connection over at DMP, who sent me an advance copy since I mentioned wanting to read it. Whatta guy! He fell for my evil plan to wheedle books out of unsuspecting publishers! Hm. I wonder if I can get Larry Young to send me copies of the two Electric Girl trades that way...?
Anyway, shameless panhandling aside, I hope you're sitting down...because I LIKED this one. A LOT. I liked it a lot more than many of the Western comics I've been buying lately. Now, if you need a moment to compose yourself after that amazing revelation, then sit back and I'll explain.
Bambi is a Tarantinoesque (a bit of a cliche these days, but really, that's the best way I can think of to describe it) rollercoaster ride of a story in which our bounty hunter heroine, she of the titular pink gun, takes on a job for a mysterious group known as the "Old Men"- to rescue a child from an enormously bloated evil Elvis-style vampire rock star named Gabba King and return him safely. King is not pleased when he discovers the kid is missing, and puts a five million Yen price on her head. Of course, that sets a legion of other mercs on her tail, and much of the book is made up of Bambi's bloody encounters with a variety of thugs ranging from the usual Yakuza types, to a really novel character: a meek male schoolteacher, who, in order to maintain his calm exterior and be a good instructor to his kids, works out his violent urges as a bounty hunter- and he's a scarily efficient one, at that, with his weapon of choice, weighted bolo-style razor wires. His encounter with Bambi in the middle of the book is a memorable and exciting one because he's the first real threat to our girl, who's easily capable of dealing with your average goon. We don't really get a lot of backstory on Bambi; how she came to be such an accomplished badass and so on- maybe that will come in later volumes. She's given a number of quirks that serve as sort of a personality surrogate- she's absolutely adamant on only eating organically grown food, for example, and she has an extreme attraction to a weird kid's show which she will watch faithfully no matter what. Despite her unpleasant edge, she's still a fun and likeable character.
It's art-wise where Kaneko grabs me the hardest- his bodacious style, with its fat, sinuous lines and painstaking detail, reminds me of some sort of hellish hybrid of S. Clay Wilson, Geoff Darrow, Gilbert Hernandez, and Linda Medley. He's (or she's- again, I was unable to find much info on this artist) as comfortable doing quiet time scenes as he is with the old ultra-violence, and often is called upon to shift from one to the other at the drop of an empty case shell. His Gabba King is an amusing Fat Elvis stab; he draws older people as well as he does young pretty people, and his tomboyish Bambi is very sexy. Click on the thumbnail at right for a closer look at a key page from her battle with the killer teacher.
Honestly, about the only complaint I can make is that she keeps saying "Me Bambi..." a lot, and it is supposed to sound cute, I guess, but after a while it gets a little annoying. Maybe that's the point, who knows. And, as always with any manga, I wonder about the translation veracity. I freely recognize that just like Pulp Fiction and the like, many will be repulsed by the constant gore and carnage in her fights, not to mention the occasional nudity (no sex, though)...so if you're tempted to get this by all means keep that in mind. It's definitely for adults only. But me, I like that QT type stuff, and Bambi resonated deep in my black, black soul. Even though my preview was in black and white, you can color me impressed and bet your ass I'll be keeping an eye out for future volumes. A