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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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09/11/2005 Archived Entry: "Manga review: Bambi and her Pink Gun"

Bambi and Her Pink Gun, Vol. 1
by Atsushi Kaneko
Translation: Duane Johnson
Digital Manga Publishing

Review by Tom Good

Bambi is a punk girl whose mission is to deliver a kidnapped child to the mysterious "Old Men." But when the child's father puts out a 500 million yen bounty on Bambi, a horde of would-be assassins pursues her, eager to kill her and collect the reward. How can this teenage girl have a chance against so many hit men? The story hints that Bambi is somehow not quite human, but more like a ferocious cornered animal, "a monster with self-preservation instincts."

Bambi hates to bathe, and at one point she smells so bad that she gives herself away to her opponents by standing upwind. When she finally takes a bath in a hotel room, a gunman takes the opportunity to attack while she is unarmed. Bambi senses him coming, spills liquid soap on the floor, and wraps her hand in a towel. When the killer walks in, she smashes the bathroom mirror with her fist, and when he slips on the soapy floor she stabs him to death with a jagged piece of the mirror. Without a word or a second thought, still naked and covered in blood, she calmly walks into the next room to check on the child. As a hard-boiled action scene, this 5-page sequence is excellent, maybe a masterpiece. However, this manga's moments of greatness arrive within an ultra-violent story that relies heavily on shock value.

The movie Kill Bill: Vol. 1 may be a good touchstone to predict whether or not you will like this book. If you laughed at the over-the-top violent excesses of Kill Bill, you might enjoy Bambi. And in much the same way that Kill Bill combines Asian and Western styles, and shows American characters dueling with samurai swords, Bambi incorporates many typically American visual elements, like cowboy hats, American cars, and a character who looks like a fanged Elvis impersonator. All the American elements have such a negative context that they may be a sort of political commentary, criticizing the Westernization of Japan. But it is hard to tell whether a story like this intends to be taken seriously as a political statement.

If you are at all offended by violence and gore, this is definitely not the book for you. Sometimes people use the term "cartoon violence" to refer to art where lack of realism mutes the emotional impact, such as in the Coyote/Roadrunner cartoons. This is not that type of cartoon violence at all, it is twisted and disturbing. The book is rated M: For mature audiences 18+ for good reason. Honestly, this manga is so violent, it makes Hokuto no Ken look like Hikaru no Go.

As the story opens, one character comments, "Damn. Whole world's diseased. Everything's covered in filth. Even the air has this weird taste. Has the human spirit gone hard? Ain't there nothin' pure left in the world?" Bambi repeatedly refers to her own "beautiful, pure body" but is disgusted by the polluted water and unhealthy food in the horrible world around her. Ultimately, the only truly pure things in the story may be the child, and Bambi's will to survive.

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