Dino Dicember #14: GON (manga)

Today we’re doing something quite good and that could use more coverage, as the days of having him as a guest star fighter in Tekken 3 are long gone. Pun not intended.

Yeah, while it has a cult following and it’s revered by many manga (and comic book) fans, GON today is mostly forgotten, and the title will more likely make Gon Freeks, the protagonist of Hunter X Hunter come to mind in manga/anime circles.

And it’s a real shame, because it’s one of those series that has an international appeal already baked in, as in Manashi Tanaka’s manga really doesn’t have people talking, or people in general, it’s literally a silent comic about the daily life of wildlife animals drawn in a beautifully realistic manner… and the dissonant chibi-styled little dinosaur Gon, who is a force of nature in itself, exploring and fighting other animals with insane strength, stamina and hunger, but also a child-like innocence and curiosity to him.

He sticks out even more due to his big head, very tiny t-rex style arms, and chonky feet. Hard to say if he’s a better offspring of Godzilla, or an odd species of dinosaurs, doesn’t really matter, Gon is just… Gon, and it’s hard not to love him, while also feeling bad for the poor animals who are woefully imprepared for this odd, incredibly stubborn, practically invincible, invulnerable predator, truly a force of nature (in every sense of the term) to be reckoned with.

And yes, there’s not even onomatopeia, just pure visual expression, and while it’s not that uncommon outside of the japanese style of comics (especially if you look at the european comics output)… as far manga goes it’s incredibly rare, and while it’s not that long as length goes, it doesn’t really matter because the level of detail on anything is incredible, the landscapes are amazing and every page perfectlys capture both the realistic and the brutal side of the animal kingdom, the amazing sharpness of the line work giving everything a rare, raw intensity to it. There are also some color pages that look amazing as well, sparse and rare, but the black and white is superb.

Even with the deliberate stylistical clash between Gon and the enviroments, even he, with the realistical detail on the scales and its head, it somehow fits perfectly with the other animals, even if just to see Gon doing the unthinkable, from using (yes, using) a lion to catch a gazelle, outright using his jaw to hold an entire tree so he can outdo a beaver at building dams, completely uncaring of it destroy the entire habitat for every other animals. Gon can be a total arrogant asshole of a dinosaur, but he also has some kind of etiquette and sense of “fairness” to him, not to mention he can also be playful and some of the comedy is great, i mean, without spoiling much more, he even tries to fly at one point. And this is just the beginning.

There are plenty of moments like these (even surprisingly wholesome or emotional bits), but i really want you to check the manga for yourself, even at a glance the art will drawn you in for sure, but there’s more to that, despite the fact the art alone makes it worth reading, and the adventures of Gon and his animal friends-enemies are anything but boring and banal, that’s for sure.

You also get a nice summary at the end of each chapter, with the animals featured in it. But there are no Japari Buns or Coins to be found here, for sure, and while these two series couldn’t be more different (as in GON was never made to sell cutesy merchandise and microtransactions as top priority), i can’t help but find some similarities in retrospect, maybe due to my rotten brain.

Ironically, despite Gon being the last opus Tanaka ever did, it’s by far the most well known one, and definitely the longer one, being serialized from 1992 to 2002, a 10 year run that amounts to 7 volumes. He never made anything else or made a sequel series telling further adventures of Gon, as he could have gone on even more, but you know what, this is a perfect place to stop as well.

As i live in Italy and on the manga side we’re treated pretty good as a market (mostly), we had a new version coming out just this year by italian publisher JPOP, with the series recompiled in 3 big volumes and an adorable bookshelf style case with a wrap-around carboard tail design acting as a “soft-lock” (see the “cover image”. Definitely better looking than old “floppy” style volumes the manga printed in before, at least in Italy.

There was also supposed to be a GON CG movie in late 2009, but by now i guess it’s vaporware, at best. An anime series in CG did actually get made, a Kodansha- Daewon Media co-production that run between march 2012 and april 2013… to be blunt i just found out this existed while doing some research for the review, i never even stumbled upon a screenshot, or heard it being mentioned or featured in a video review. Maybe the fact that the series has voice actors listed in the Wikipedia page… yeah, that already looks like a red flag, but i’m not getting into that now.

In a somewhat fitting move, eventually Gon appeared in videogames again, but you’ve probably never heard of these either, since either the ononimous Super Famicom title and 2012’s “Gon: Baku Baku Baku Baku Adventure” for Nintendo 3DS… never left Japan, to the surprise of no one.

Oh well, the original manga is what i would dare define as a timeless classic, a masterpiece of slice of life with a prehistoric theme, one devoid of any entry barrier by its silent comic nature. Absolutely recommended read.

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