Bambi and her Pink Gun vol. 1
Chad Clayton rates it:
Author/Artist: Atsushi Kaneko
Despite the mental image that might be evoked by the rather odd title, this is not a manga about an exhibitionist hermaphrodite. Though in retrospect, that concept might have made a far better manga than this.
My review copy of Bambi and Her Pink Gun came slathered with a generous number of stickers, labels, and such all warning me that this manga was intended For Mature Readers Only, Ages 18+. On behalf of all mature readers aged 18+, I would like to personally ask the good people at DMP to please consider changing the “For Mature Readers” label to “For Older Readers” on all future printings and volumes of this manga series. I say this because the label “for mature readers” implies that the title’s intended audience has gained a certain level of sophistication and maturity in their reading habits, which is not the case with Bambi and Her Pink Gun. It looks like it was originally intended for maladjusted 14-year-old boys, and it reads like it was written by one.
The heroine of our story, Bambi, has kidnapped (rescued?) a young boy from underground-connected pop star Gabba King, who looks like a cross between Fat Elvis and an elven vampire. Her objective is to deliver the boy to “the old men.” Tons of unsavory characters try to stop her. Most of them die. There’s also some nudity, profanity, and homophobic language. None of this is done in a particularly clever or original way, and the narrative is handled with all the subtlety and grace of King Kong performing brain surgery on a mouse, with a hydrogen bomb in place of a scalpel. In fact, every one of the very simple and obvious characters, plot points, and messages (real or imagined) is hammered into the reader’s head with such force that it’s likely to instigate blunt force trauma.
I’ve long had a theory that the harder a film, comic, or whatever tries to be shocking, the less shocking it actually is. When a comic establishes a universe where murder, violence, and crime are more the norm than the exception, it’s neither surprising nor particularly consequential when characters are murdered or various acts of depravity take place, especially if the title lacks the courage to go all the way for fear of scaring off its audience. This certainly seems to hold true for Bambi and Her Pink Gun. We see crime and murder from the get-go, so it’s never surprising or traumatic when someone dies. I think the manga’s trying to be “shocking” by moving violence and contempt for humanity into the realm of being “cool,” because Bambi’s evidently supposed to be cool, and she’s a murderous brat.
Ah yes, Bambi. One of the biggest complaints I’ve had about anime heroines over the last few years is that many of them are incapable of being anything other than eye-candy for nerds. This is not the case in this manga, but it takes the opposite approach to such an extreme that the results are equally unpleasant. Bambi is about five degrees away from being a sociopathic serial killer. She has little, if any, concern for the safety and welfare of anyone other than herself (she even uses her young charge as a shield), nor does she have any qualms about senseless killing. She’s self-important in the extreme, and seems to hate everyone else for merely existing in that self-important, rebel-without-a-clue way. She’s a straightedge/environment nut who goes on about her “pure, beautiful body.” Her catchphrase is “Me Bambi,” which suggests that she took all her grammar lessons from the Cookie Monster. As though that weren’t enough, over half of this entire volume is spent trying to convince us of how dangerous, loose-cannon, extreeeeem, and keraaaazy Bambi is. I think if you have to spend several chapters trying to convince us of something like that, then your character isn’t quite there yet. Bambi doesn’t come off as dangerous, admirable, or even detestable; she comes off as some woman-child who stopped developing psychologically before hitting the double digits. I’m not really even completely sure if we’re supposed to like or hate Bambi, because given her portrayal, I suspect the comic also holds her in some form of contempt.
Regardless of what I say, Bambi and Her Pink Gun has a target audience that will undoubtedly buy it right up. After all, sex and violence sell, and this whole manga is basically a paean to humanity’s more disturbing fascinations. So if you like stylish but creatively and morally bankrupt violence, sex, and cussin’, then this will do its job. Personally, I think it’s boring, exploitative trash that tries so hard to be stylish and shocking that it actually makes itself completely mundane. Given the fact that there’s manga out there that are far more creative, contain far more personality, and even do the “sex and violence” thing much better than this, why would anyone want to read this anyway, especially at a much higher price point than other, better manga?
Added: Monday, August 22, 2005
Related Link: Digital Manga Publishing