Great fanart by BakaMeko at
Yes. That's right. The series I want to talk about today is Konjiki no Gash!! aka Zatch Bell for the NA audience written by Raiku Makoto. For all those who know Gash but never took the chance to actually watch/read it, there's probably a lot of bad misconceptions about how childish it appears. Having been introduced to it by a friend a few years ago, I decided to give it a go after my first experience with the horrible dub. After watching 150 episdoes ish and then reading the manga which continued with the plot, Konjiki no Gash!! became my favourite Shounen series of all time.In a world filled with Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, Hunter x Hunter, Fairy Tail, etc , to me, Konjiki no Gash!! excels at what I value in a Shounen series and does it in such a way that I can't compare it to any of the other Shounen series.
Soooo quick synopsis, Konjiki no Gash!! features the characters Kiyomaro and Gash as they team up and participate in a battle with 100 Mamonos (the "monster"/demon children)in order to decide who will be the next king of the demon world. The setting allows for there to be a constant stream of battles (which there are a ton of) as well as introducing a win conditions besides death. The added focus on burning the spellbook of the Mamono gives the fights the options of avoiding death (or so it seems) but still retaining the sense of loss when a comrade is defeated.
In all honesty, while I highly value plot, Gash's battle to battle while entertaining and at times really epic doesn't make Gash stand out from any of the other Shounen series. However, the charm of its characters and the crucial bonds between the Mamono and their partner is what makes this series so great. A Mamono cannot cast spells without their partner while their partner needs to be protected by the Mamono. This resulting bond that are forged through the series results in a lot of heart moving moments. Honestly, within the last few arcs, there were tons of moments where I felt teared up. In a series where death isn't present, I find this astounding as well as a huge accomplishment. The growth of the main characters is something that I also feel should be focused on in a Shounen series.At the beginning of the series, Kiyomaro is regarded as so highly intelligent that it ends up him being ostracized from all those around him. However, when coupled with the energeticGash, Kiyomaro starts to open up and cares for the people around him. While his intelligence is his strong suit, the series develops in such a way that all those around Kiyomaro don't just see someone who has a strong mind, but also a strong heart. Similarly, Gash who begins with amnesia develops over the course of the series through his resolve. The question for what reasonis he fighting becomes for who he is fighting helps motivate himself as well as those around him. Besides the main 2, all of Gash's companions and even some of the characters who barely get any scenes are developed in such a way that they really do feel like they're alive.
As well as avoiding the use of death in order to move plot or build character, I also like how there is a lack of fan service. Besides Folgore's famous "oppai" song as well as another character who barely makes appearances, Gash avoids using the overused notion that showing skin or panties in a Shounen series will increase readership. Instead, the comedy of Gash adjusting to life in the human worldas well as following Kiyomaro to school is a nice break from the constant action. In terms of pacing, while the beginning feels at first rather episodical in nature, I never felt that the series ever dragged on. Despite the staggering amount of episodes and manga chapters, the joy of reading easily kept me going. If I were to suggest which form is a better way to experience Gash, it would have to be a mixture of both. What the anime does well is bring life to the characters through the great voice work. Having them voiced and moving gives each character an extra layer of charm. While staying faithful to the manga, around episode 140 ish, it starts to deviate and then I would suggest to read the manga equivalent chapters from then on in order to experience the best of what Gash has to offer. While the anime ending isn't bad, it doesn't match the epicness of the manga. Even then, while reading the manga, the voices of Kiyomaro, Gash, and the rest of the characters were speaking in my head making the experience so much better.
Shounen Jump's motto is Friendship, Effort, and Victory. Konjiki no Gash!! (despite being from Shounen Sunday haha) captures all of this and more. It is to me what Shounen represents. The idea that strenghh lies in a strong and kind heart.Honestly, I don't think there's any other Shounen series which moved me to the point of tears through such a innocent way.Konjiki no Gash!! will probably always be my favourite Shounen series and possibly the one of all time. Thanks for reading!