Tennouji Kitsune‘s Upotte!! is among my favorite currently-running manga thanks to its endearing narrative conceit: guns personified as cute little girls. “X personified as cute little girls” is a common plot archetype in manga, but as always, the execution of that archetype in a work determines its success. Upotte has a unique execution that will appeal to some and alienate others.
The series is structured loosely, bouncing between 4-koma chapters, brief story arcs, sudden exposition segments, and random hijinks. This may be due to the author’s indecisiveness; the first chapters are about a human teacher coming to a school for gun-girls—the teacher being a stand-in for the reader to whom facts about gun-girls can be explained. However, this idea is immediately discarded when the teacher gets virtually cut from the story, only showing up rarely and briefly. Tennouji apparently figured out that he didn’t need the character and canned him. No one’s complaining.
So, the girls are guns. This leads to interesting character development and interesting world development as the effects of girls as guns are revealed. Important questions are dodged for now, such as, “are all guns girls?,” “are all instances of a certain gun the same girl, or does she have thousands of clones?,” “are the girls as old as the guns they represent?” It’s better we didn’t think too hard about it, instead enjoying the things we do learn. For instance:
The girls’ body types are effected by their weapon specs. The L85A1, for instance, is a heavy gun, so Elle is revealed to have large breasts as a result of that weight.
Personalities are also based on the nature of weapons. Sig, for instance, is Swiss (which comes with its own stereotypes) and is an incredible badass, seeing as the author clearly loves his sigs.
How being a gun effects the girls’ ability to live is revealed gradually. We already know that they don’t eat, though we don’t know about their sleeping habits yet. Whether they should fear water was brought up (they’re military-grade weapons, so they’re built to withstand rust), and recently, we learned that they can’t die.
They probably don’t age, either. I imagine that their parents would be considered their creators, whom they’ve all likely outlived. They also carry the grudges of old wars they were used in.
While learning about guns and their corresponding girls is a lot of fun, the best part of this setup is that it lends to awesome gunfights. One can count on a story with such emphasis on weapon specs to have well thought-out tactical battles, and Upotte delivers.
Being as the series is just as much about cute girls as it is about guns, you also get brilliant concept mash-ups such as this snowball fight.
I wish I had a bit more information on Upotte. I’d like to know why/when Upotte moved from Young Ace (a seinen magazine) to Shounen Ace. As I understand it, Shounen Ace is sort of like Champion Red in that it features a lot of content that would earn an 18+ rating in the US, but Upotte certainly has some odd perversions when it chooses to show them.
I, of course, welcome this aspect of the manga.
Upotte has been greenlit for an anime adaption, which is exciting, though I hope there’s enough material for one by the time production starts. Hopefully, the adaption will be handled by a studio that can really bring the gunfights to life. I’m also wondering about Tennouji having newly started another manga called Gunners (which hasn’t been picked up by any scanslators yet). It’d worry me, had a look through Tennouji’s past works not revealed him to be extremely prolific. Looking forward to the next chapter!