Teenage Shuichi has a strange curse. He’s like a werewolf, except that instead of turning into a wolf, he turns into a creepy big-headed amusement park mascot. His mascot form is powerful and deadly; it even comes with a loaded gun. One night, while wandering the countryside like Frankenstein’s monster, he rescues a teenage girl from a fire, and she gets a glimpse of him transforming. The next day she tracks him down, introduces herself as Claire, and threatens to out him unless he teams up with her. “Don’t you think it’s fascinating?” she purrs. “Monsters really exist!” As the sly, sexy, manipulative Claire and the reluctant Shuichi search for clues to explain his condition—and the whereabouts of Claire’s missing sister, who could also turn into a weird monster—they’re hunted by other monstrous people and forced into gory battles. Then they notice that Shuichi’s mascot body has a zipper in the back …
Gleipnir is relentlessly dark, violent, perverted, and bizarre, the kind of work that some manga fans enthusiastically seek out and others avoid with equal fervor. The monsters, especially Shuichi’s lumbering mascot form, are disturbing and repulsive, a mix of Cronenbergian body horror and the cuteness-gone-wrong aesthetic of anime like Paprika. Combine the icky monsters and grim violence with copious fanservice—every few pages there is another close-up of Claire’s clingy, wispy panties and/or bra—and you get a heady, disorienting brew of sex and violence.
Winding in and out of this wild ride is an intriguing horror plot, with clues dropping into the action like the odd coins the characters keep finding. What’s the deal with the vending machine at the abandoned amusement park? What happened to Claire’s sister? Is Claire just a flat-out sociopath? Why are mascot costumes so incredibly scary? It remains to be seen whether Gleipnir can connect all its disparate elements into a satisfying story. In the meantime, it’s almost worth reading just to confirm that, yes, this is a manga about a big-headed mascot critter that’s dripping with sex and violence and body horror.
story and art: Sun Takeda