Archive for category Parody

A Guru of Role Playing Parody

The cover of the first volume of Mahojin Guru Guru (rotated).

The cover of the first volume of Mahojin Guru Guru (rotated).

If I had lived during the feudal period of any country’s history, I wonder if my parents would have raised me become a hero in the same way as Mahojin Guru Guru.

In late 1994 I was forever changed by the first two episodes of the anime Mahojin Guru Guru. It wouldn’t be until much later in my life that I would have the chance to see more of the anime series, but those two episodes fascinated me to no end. Though I was aware of the manga series at the time, it never crossed my mind to actually read it until the second Mahojin Guru Guru anime series, Doki Doki Densetsu Mahojin Guru Guru, began in spring 2000. That series rekindled my interest in the manga series Mahojin Guru Guru (魔方陣グルグル), and to this day it still remains one of my favorite manga series to reread from time to time.

The manga series is exceptionally funny throughout, playing well off of old videogame RPG (role playing game) stereotypes, and it never becomes monotonous in the humor presented. There is also an assortment of adventures, generally one per volume, so readers definitely receive a great deal of content for a relatively short series. I also enjoy the artwork of the author Hiroyuki Eto, as it’s very cute, which is surprisingly fitting for the Mahojin Guru Guru story line.

There was a time in my life when I thoroughly enjoyed playing RPG videogames. But as console technology has improved, and memory space has increased, I find it much more difficult to play through a long narrative game. Even though many of the older RPGs from the late 1980s and early 1990s may have lacked a certain depth to their stories, they were great fun to play. So it’s no surprise the manga series Mahojin Guru Guru models itself after many of those old tropes. From the makeup of the party, the dungeons, and even minor details such as text boxes in the manner of the old Dragon Quest games explaining items or locations, the series feels like an early Square-Enix game. However, if that was all the series had to offer, I doubt it would have lasted more than a few volumes. It’s the humor of the series that brings it to life, and it does a wonderful job of poking fun at the same tropes the series is using.

For example, in the first volume of the series, the hero, Nike (pronounced Nee-Kay), and his party learn the secret of the dungeon’s boss, but none of them can remember it. While this alone is amusing, it’s actually the boss’s dialogue that is the most entertaining. Seeing as how it’s just a larger version of the grunt monsters, it’s not all that smart, so it actually needs a script for all of its exposition. Reading the dialogue is incredibly fun, and is a good precedent for a significant portion of the series’ humor.

However, there are only so many running jokes an author can use before they begin to lose their appeal. There are a handful of jokes that come close to losing their appeal, but they are fortunately never overused to the point where I became fed up with them. I think the best example of these running jokes is the Kita Kita dancer, who appears at the most impractical times, and which is used quite extensively. However, the author Hiroyuki Eto does give readers a break from it periodically, the longest being between volumes two and four, and later from seven to nine. There is one joke I would have liked to have seen a bit more of, though, and that’s the heroine, Kukuri, failing in casting her magic spell. It really only happens a handful of times, but I feel as though, as with the dance, it could have occurred at inappropriate times for good comic effect, particularly after it’s explained how her magic works.

While the comedy of Mahojin Guru Guru is exceptional, and possibly the best selling point for the series, there is an astonishing amount of content for just sixteen volumes. So much so, it puts series such as Dragon Ball to shame. In comparison to many other longer shonen manga series that have fewer story arcs, Mahojin Guru Guru has around fourteen story arcs despite its short length. This equates to about one arc for every one-and-a-half volumes. On the surface it would appear the series has little content, but on the contrary, each story is, excepting for maybe the final two, thoroughly fleshed out. The characters grow, the world expands, and the plot thickens, especially during the back-to-back stories of Kopal and Alhabika.

Some of the off the wall comedy of Mahojin Guru Guru.

Some of the off the wall comedy of Mahojin Guru Guru.

The Kopal and Alhabika story arcs are, in fact, my favorites of the series because they set in motion the events for much of the second half of the series. It’s in these two arcs that Nike discovers how he must become the true hero by meeting the four elemental kings and receiving their swords and Kukuri learns the nature and the source of the power for her magic. Mixed in with these important plot details is the outstanding comedy. Yet, at a combined total of only four volumes, at first glance one wouldn’t think it would be possible to include so much into the story. But, the length of a story should not dictate the quality of it.

I have praised other manga artists for their detailed styles, but Hiroyuki Eto’s style also has a certain charm to it. The art is much more akin to a children’s book rather than a manga targeted at ten- to eighteen-year-olds, but when paired with the comedy and the romantic feelings Kukuri has towards Nike, it’s a solid fit. It does have the downside of making many of the monsters appear less threatening, though. But again, as a predominantly comedic series, this is forgivable. What’s most enjoyable, however, is how the characters’ clothes change with each story arc. Not only does this give each location its own personality, it keeps the designs of the characters constantly fresh.

There is something to say about keeping the appearance of characters constant so they can be instantly recognized, but I like seeing how different environments, cultures, conditions, and whatnot affect the garb of the characters. Some of my favorites from Mahojin Guru Guru are the training robe, cat-ear robe, and thief’s outfit for Kukuri, and the odd clothes Nike wears from time to time. As I said this helped to bring out the personality of each town and city they traveled to as well as adding an extra layer of excitement for each new story arc.

Mahojin Guru Guru is without a doubt one of my favorite manga series from my youth. Though its pace does begin to slow after the tenth volume, if read at a steady pace, maybe a volume or two a day, the slowing pace toward the end shouldn’t be too bothersome. Since February 2014, Square-Enix began re-releasing the series in conjunction with the release of Mahojin Guru Guru 2, so perhaps international markets will finally get the chance to experience this wonderful series. If not, and I hope this will not be the case, this is still a great series to look for, and is well worth purchasing.

Work Info
Title:
Mahojin Guru Guru (魔方陣グルグル)
By: Hiroyuki Eto
Under: Square-Enix, Shonen Gangan
Official Site: http://www.ganganonline.com/comic/guruguru/
More Info: http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/魔方陣グルグル

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