Pumpkin Scissors Volume 1 by Ryotaro Iwanaga
I swapped for this book several months ago, and it languished in my “to read” pile. I’m glad I finally picked it up. Ridiculous title aside Pumpkin Scissors is an interesting character-based study of the aftermath of war. A war between the Empire and the Republic of Frost has come to an end, but the reconstruction after the war is a new battle. Imperial Army State Section III, nicknamed Pumpkin Scissors, is charged with helping the civilian population and chasing down former soldiers that have turned into bandits. Their commanding field officer is Second Lieutenant Alice Malvin. Alice comes from the nobility and has a habit of brandishing a knife and making pronouncements like “We’re Imperial Army State Section III, aka Pumpkin Scissors! We’ll remove you from this town for perpetuating war crimes and interfering with the reconstruction of our nation!”
Alice and her team investigate a small town where a rogue army squad has barracaded themselves in a dam, venturing out only to terrorize the townspeople. She encounters a gargantuan veteran named Randel who helps in the ensuing battle. He has a lantern that shines blue light like a will o’ the wisp, and when he switches the lantern on he becomes an unstoppable destructive force. Alice decides to ask Randel to join her unit. He seems invigorated by the idea of being part of a force designed for reconstruction, even though it seems to be a joke among the rest of the imperial army.
Pumpkin Scissors goes to investigate a despotic aristocrat and Alice ends up leading an army of maids to rebel against their master. Alice starts to confront her own feelings about being noble by going to an extreme – limiting her transportation and food options in order to try to live as a commoner. Randel always seems to be around when she needs a little bit of advice. He seems like a lovable lunkhead most of the time but it is clear that he’s haunted by his past war experiences. There’s no official record of the unit Randel formerly served with, perhaps because the soldiers in it were the product of human experimentation.
I liked Pumpkin Scissors mainly because of Alice’s character. Usually in manga the brash young soldier type is a man, so it was interesting to see the gender of that character type swapped in this manga. I’m curious to learn more about Randel’s back story too. The other members of Pumpkin Scissors are mostly used for comic relief, especially the messenger dog that always seems to cause accidents. Pumpkin Scissors reminded me a little bit of Fullmetal Alchemist because both series deal with the human aspects of war. I wish the art in Pumpkin Scissors was a little more attractive. While it is easy to follow the action scenes, I often wished that the characters’ facial expressions were a little more mobile. Still, I’m definitely intrigued by this manga, and I’ll probably check out some of the additional volumes or maybe rent the anime version of the story.