I’m going to have to stop saying things like “I don’t like comics about dim-witted lowlifes,” because every time I do, something like Hideaki Sorachi’s Gin Tama (Viz – Shonen Jump Advanced) comes along to contradict me. In my defense, I think Gin Tama is an uncommonly good comic about dim-witted lowlifes.
The second volume builds smartly on the virtues of the first. Gin and his cohorts run through another round of decidedly odd jobs that range from the weirdly romantic to the disturbingly creepy. Sorachi’s aggressive approach to comedy ties everything together, and his cast (disarmed samurai Gin, scolding four-eyes Shinpachi, and adorably violent alien Kagra) really start clicking as a unit. (Okay, they don’t function well as co-workers, but they make quite a comedy troupe.)
It’s fairly episodic, but there are enough recurring elements and hinted-at secrets to give it a little more heft than it might otherwise have. Gin’s uneasy relationships with both the local cops and the hometown terrorist cell have lots of promise for future stories; both factions are about equally morally iffy, which is interesting in its own right.
And it’s very, very funny. Underlying all of the low-brow antics is some real wit and perceptiveness. There’s a very high rate of return on even the throw-away gags. The art is just right for the material, too.
About a third of the way through the second volume, I said to myself that this is one of the best new shônen series I’ve read all year. For a book whose kanji title can be read as “Testicles,” this is quite a surprise, though it’s certainly a pleasant one.
(This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.)