License Request Day: Bambi and Her Pink Gun

June 19, 2009

bambi1My plan is to concentrate this feature on titles that have never been published in English, but I reserve the right to make the occasional exception and turn License Request Day into Rescue Request Day. This week, I’m inspired by the arrival of Kiminori Wakasugi’s Detroit Metal City (Viz). Perhaps, if it does well as it deserves, we will enter into an era where shamelessly coarse, stealthily brilliant manga can find a home on our bookstore shelves. Perhaps it will be time for the return of Atsushi Kaneko’s Bambi and Her Pink Gun.

bambisampleDigital Manga Publishing released two of this series’ six volumes in 2005, breaking hearts by not completing the run. (I won’t guess how many hearts were broken; obviously not enough, or it would have been profitable enough to finish.) I won’t pretend that the audience for the book might not be a bit narrower than most. The art is unusual, the protagonist is a horrible person, and the violence and depravity are pretty much constant. Of course, the people whose response to that is “Sign me up!” are loyal sorts.

They’re especially loyal when a publisher lavishes as much attention to production as DMP did with its two volumes – crisp reproduction, nice paper quality, dust covers, colored ink, and so on. And the story it self is a fast-paced crime spree featuring one of those blank-slate protagonists who manage to be interesting in spite of themselves. Bambi has a foul disposition and a way with mayhem; she may or may not have a damaged emotional core that explains her behavior, but there’s no evidence of one yet, and it doesn’t seem like a reason for her behavior would be strictly necessary.

bambi2She’s kidnapped a horrible child at the behest of some mysterious “Old Men.” The child’s father sets a substantial bounty on Bambi’s head, and there are plenty of seedy types who are more than willing to off a teen for five hundred million yen. Good luck to them, honestly, as Bambi is much more likely to go through than around. Kaneko assembles a vivid, repulsive rogues gallery for Bambi, and one can only imagine what kind of human monsters lurk in the other four volumes.

Really, I shouldn’t like this book, certainly not as much as I do. Its saving grace is that the thoroughly gratuitous violence lacks the smugness of similar work by Quentin Tarantino and his ilk. It runs on adrenalin and meanness, and it’s undeniably exhilarating. So please, won’t someone rescue Bambi?