I Finished Reading the Gleipnir Manga; Here are my Thoughts

I finished the Gleipnir Manga; Here are my Thoughts 

Gleipnir is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Sun Takeda, serialized in Kodansha’s seinen manga magazine Young Magazine the 3rd from October 2015 to April 2021. It was transferred to Monthly Young Magazine in May 2021. It tells the story of Shuichi Kagaya, a high school boy who can transform into a monstrous dog-like creature, and Claire Aoki, a girl who seeks revenge for her parents’ death. 

Together, they join a group of people with similar abilities who are searching for coins that grant wishes. The manga has been adapted into an anime television series by Pine Jam that aired from April to June 2020.

That first bit was written by Bing AI and while it shares the fine details of the manga, it certainly lacks voice. Allow me, while trying to hold back spoilers…. 

When I first stumbled upon the image of-oh my god what is that thing? My curiosity led me to read this bizarre cosmic horror, because that’s what it is. With a touch of smut, romance, and battle royale, Gleipnir certainly delivers an unusual experience. 

Where do I begin with Gleipnir? 

Shuichi’s a melancholy teen who’s got amnesia, because of course the protagonist does, and he can turn into a literal mascot of some kids toy. Why, you ask? 

Because aliens. That’s why.

He stumbles upon the sadist Claire and they decide that their goals align, somehow, about finding the truth of whatever the hell he is and where her older sister disappeared to. Their goals, believe it or not, have very much to do with each other. Along the way, they’ll leave a bloody trail of bodies to find their truth. 

Do their actions have repercussions? Absolutely. Are they in the wrong? Well… no, they merely acted in self defense. Yet the characters here aren’t all one-dimensional. So really, it’s up to you to decide! 

Gleipnir is Horrifying

Gleipnir is very much supernatural, with undertones of romance, drama, and action. But I wager right next to that supernatural tag is horror, a body horror if you will. Characters die in terrible ways, often by grotesque looking monsters that remind me of Stephen Gammell’s creepy illustrations often seen in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Hellish landscapes appear from time to time, painting a grim picture that looks like it took notes from Berserk. There’s this one scene involving a high school… but I can’t say more than that, other than its not for the faint of heart

Takeda is really imaginative with these monsters, giving them huge heads or beady eyes, lanky arms or tentacles, claws and fangs, etc. Basically an adult “Where the Wild Things Are”. Then there’s our protagonist, who’s just a giant stuffed animal with a revolver, and a rebellious chick who can go inside him, but we’ll get to that in a bit. The point is, you don’t expect some of these creepy things to come up, but they do, and in full force when the plot picks up.

I can’t fail to mention that the manga brings up topics of self-harm and the things that associate with that, which are horror in of itself. So be mindful of that when delving into this manga. I struggle with mental health myself, but I found that the plot in this was tolerable enough to get through those dark moments.

It Takes Two to Tango

Shuichi and Claire are opposites. While Shuichi is a melancholy guy who would rather avoid violence, Claire sees violence as the only option. With a spunky attitude and borderline sadist, Claire comes up with some crazy and dark ways to overcome the obstacles her and Shuichi face. Shuichi is the one with the ability to turn into… whatever the hell that thing is. Claire is the one with the balls to use his body to fight, quite literally. She can literally unzip his back and get inside him like some mascot, which you’re not prepared for.

But until their goals align and they realize they face the same threat, Shuichi and Claire have to put their differences aside and fight for their lives. But at the point their goals do align, something very interesting happens, and it’s a real turning point for the story. There is some nice character development, and revelations later on in the story give insight into the backstory of these characters, giving them newfound depth. Even the “alien” has a rather wild origin story.

Gleipnir has an Impressive Moral to its Story

There are many anime and manga today that lack depth, art, story, and most importantly, a moral to its story. Gleipnir is one of those manga that has a clear-cut moral that seems so simple and not common enough, yet is so important in real life today. That moral being… 

Good will prevail over evil.

Feels obvious when you hear it, but if you’re reading this in 2023, you probably haven’t lived under a rock your whole life. You probably realize there is quite a bit of evil happening in the world each and every day. Violence, wars, famine, global warming, and other crimes against humanity splatter the 6:00 pm news every night. Those are only a few examples of course. Yet, like the message that author Stephen King often tries to get across; humanity is inherently good. And really, while media outlets often spread outrage news, there are good people doing good things to help others and help the planet to heal.

Gleipnir uses this moral and weaves it in its bizarre plot. Minor spoilers, but if…say, magical alien coins gave people powers, what would humanity do with them? And while, yes, many people would be selfish and wish for thirst for power, there are those who would use those coins for the greater good. The good people would defeat the bad people, despite the cycle going on seemingly forever and ever. It really is an interesting concept that echoes real life, and it’s a fresh take on “good vs evil”. 

The Wild Character Designs

Before I wrap up, I gotta mention those monster designs. While I mentioned before how the creature designs are downright creepy, the heroes of Gleipnir have their own unique transformation designs. Shuichi can transform into some weird mascot in the beginning even when Claire goes inside him (literally). It’s not until the pairs’ goals truly align that the once mascot they were evolves into some badass skeleton chick with a jersey &… katana? I dunno the idea behind it but it just works. And that’s not even their final form! 

The other character designs aren’t anywhere as memorable. Claire’s sister’s design reminds me of the grudge, and everyone else’s monster design has something to do with the wish they asked the alien vending machine for. So you’ve got the buff guy becoming an even buffer monster, the timid girl becoming sneaky like a fox, and the athletic girl getting speedy legs like a tiger, etc. The villain’s design is gnarly too, with self-regenerating centipedes, yuck! 

Final Thoughts on Gleipnir 

The plot of Gleipnir is a unique one with a strange premise. The idea of alien coins allowing people to wish for powers, and of course there are those who want to use that power for evil, is unusual. Even more unusual is the alien guy who hangs by some ruins and allows this free-for-all to happen with all the coin collectors. 

It’s a battle-Royale with monsters, and going deeper into the heart of the woods is exactly what an unlikely pair of protagonists need to do to find their truth. And they do, with the manga jumping around horror and Shounen battle genres. There were losses, twists and turns that had me surprised, but it kept me interested nonetheless.

Gleipnir is an underappreciated gem of a manga and deserves more love. At some points it trudges, but the climax is decent and the ending made me smile. Thanks for reading! 

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