Sunday, May 13, 2018

Merry Month of Manga Review: GIGANTO MAXIA

When Kentaro Miura takes a break from working on Berserk, he can usually be found making other, shorter manga (well...when he's not playing Idolmaster). 

GIGANTO MAXIA (Gigantomahkia), by Kentaro Miura.  First published in 2014 and first published in North America in 2016.


In a far future world, the former gladiator Delos wanders the waste with a young, ethereal spirit named Prome.  The two end up in the middle of the desert, where Delos is captured by a group of half-beetle people who force him to fight for his life.  Delos wins both the fight and their favor, but soon they all find themselves under threat by a far-off empire with a towering, all-consuming colossus.


Giganto Maxia is a very different creature than Berserk.  Its version of fantasy isn't grim and Western-influenced, but instead hopeful, taking inspiration from far more modern and eclectic sources.

Delos and Prome are a simple pair with a familiar dynamic: a big dopey brawler led around by a smarter, smaller girl.  Prome is the brains of the operation, able to analyze their situation in a detatched and bluntly logical manner.  Meanwhile, Delos is the heart and the brawn in one person, able to defend him and fight for causes bigger than himself even if he can't fully understand or articulate them.  This emotional core goes a long way towards anchoring this story, no matter what weird direction Miura might take it.

Make no mistake, Giganto Maxia goes some weird (and sometimes uncomfortable) directions.  Our main pair end up in the middle of a desert tribe that are clearly inspired by African natives that are literally referred to as 'demi-human.'  It may be literally true (they are part-beetle, complete with partial exoskeletons), but that combination has uncomfortable, even potentially racist implications.  Worse still, they are ultimately saved from the Roman-in-everything-but-name empire that antagonizes them not by their own efforts, but by Delos the former Empire citizen.  He's not stated to be explicitly white, but it still hues closely to old-fashioned ideas of white saviors coming in to save primitive cultures from others.

Those are far from the only problems, though. There's the weirdly kinky bits between Delos and Prome.  Prome may be an ethereal sort of spirit creature, but that means she has the appearance of a pre-pubescent girl.  That makes her watersports-themed method of nourishing Delos with "nectar" DEEPLY uncomfortable, for both Delos and the reader alike.  Then there's the unusually blatant references to both Attack on Titan and Terraformars.  Why else would there be half-bug men with uncomfortably racist implications?  Why else would Delos and Prome be able to transform into a towering giant that fights with another giant?  The most subtle Miura gets is with how Delos fights.  Instead of fighting to the death as a traditional gladiator might, Delos consciously lets his opponents show off their moves before stopping them with suplexes and similar moves.  In this way, he is able to defeat others while allowing both sides to retain their lives and their dignity.  In other words, he invented professional wrestling.

Taken all together, Giganto Maxia is a weird mish-mash of ideas.  In spite of all this, I can't say I hated it.  It takes a little while for the story to get going, but once Delos enters the arena it finds its footing and doesn't let up until it ends with a supersonic finishing move.  Its innate weirdness is compelling and awkward in equal turn.  It's not brilliant, but at least it's never boring.


Not suprisingly, this book benefits greatly from Miura's incredible skill as an artist.  The fantasy elements here don't take inspiration from Western sources as in Berserk, but instead from the natural world of both the past and present.  It's a funky, organic sort of style that works well with Miura's attention to detail and makes it distinct from other fantasy manga.  Miura handles the brawls well, conveying both a sense of raw physical power and dynamic motion regardless of scale.  That's something else he handles well: the sheer size of the world of Giganto Maxia.  The humans of this world are outsized by both the size and scale of this world.  The wastelands and deserts stretch out to the horizons, the animal life is enormous (and occasionally man-eating), and the colossi tower like skyscrapers over everything.


Giganto Maxia has weird and wonderful art, but the story cribs a little too obvious from pop culture and doesn't always think about the implications of some of its ideas.  Fans of Miura and fantasy in general may find something to like here, but it would likely be too much of a hard sale for more casual readers.

This book is published by Dark Horse.  It is currently in print.

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