Here is your analogy for the day: Gestalt is like a really good hamburger. The ingredients come as no surprise, and neither is the form they come in — but is there anyone here who doesn’t like a really good hamburger? (Apologies to the vegetarians in the audience.)
The book amounts to a generic Fantasy Adventure Quest template: it not only breaks no new ground, but goes back and puts parking stripes on the old ground. And yet the whole thing is fun, in big part because of the attitude. It doesn’t take itself seriously and it doesn’t try to, either. It’s leavened with cheek and good humor, and so more than makes up for being unoriginal by having high spirits. It also sports a major selling point in that it’s an early creation from Yun Kouga, she of Loveless fame, a series I haven’t yet read but which has been next to impossible not to know about.
Gestalt takes place in a world of many lands, where the gods once all clashed with each other to see who was top dog. One of them, known only by the name “G” (much as a certain Vampire Hunter is known only by the name “D”), betrayed the others and was banished to a forbidden land by the same name. There, he languishes, and as legend has it he has the power to grant a wish to any who can find him.
Right in the first few pages of the story, we’re introduced to the man who wishes to seek G out and have his wish granted. This man isn’t some moody warrior of few words or a brash young kid with no family — instead, he’s a reticent and somewhat easily jangled priest of the Order of Valaria, Father Olivier. (Think of Abel Nightroad from Trinity Blood in his polite, oh-no-I-couldn’t-possibly-impose form.) Olivier is no complete pushover, though: he has the power of the gods at his command, to some degree. He’s just not an adventurer by nature, and so in order to fulfill this quest he’ll need a few sidekicks. He gets them, and most of them are also straight out of the traditional fantasy adventure Central Casting book: Suzu, the haughty dark elf; and Shazan, a fortune-teller with as much doom and gloom as Olivier has quiet reserve.
There’s also a fourth, and this fourth character makes this book into the romp that it is. Her name’s Ouri, a young girl whose voice has been sealed away by magic but whose irrepressible, bubbly spirits come through no matter what. She has great fun teasing Olivier even when she’s not able to speak (which leads to some of the funniest moments in the whole book). And once she does get her voice back — thanks to a battery of spells from Olivier — she really lays the teasing on thick. Her affection for him may well be genuine, but there’s plenty of reason to believe she may be headed to G for reasons of her own.
Ouri also wields magic — and no small amount of it of her own — although that allows her to make just as many bad decisions as good ones. At one point early on she’s stuck in some kind of gladiatorial game against a giant wormlike monster, and banks a little too heavily on her magic to bail her out … or maybe just the magic everyone knows about so far. And later on, her attraction to Olivier turns out to be a weakness that various newly-made enemies decide to exploit.
The word “romp” was coined for a book like this. The plot’s almost beside the point, and I don’t mean that as a dig at the comic. It’s that the character interactions are so free-spirited and lively, they make quibbles about plotting and logic and maybe even motivation almost irrelevant. It’s as if they all know they’re taking part in a manga, and are having a blast living up to their respective roles. All for our sakes. Ain’t that sweet of ‘em?