Zatch Bell!, also known in Japan as Golden Gash!, is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Makoto Raiku. It was published in Shogakukan’s Weekly Shōnen Sunday. The series follows mamodo Zatch Bell and his human partner Kiyo Takamine, as they try to win a tournament of Mamodo battles in order to make the former the king of the Mamodo world.
The manga was later adapted into a 150 episode anime television series titled Golden Gash Bell!! by Toei Animation. Konjiki no Gash Bell premiered on Fuji TV on April 6, 2003, and ran until March 26, 2006. In addition to an array of licensed merchandise, the series also spawned a series of video games and two animated films.
The Zatch Bell! manga has over 22 million copies in circulation. In 2003, it won the 48th Shogakukan Manga Award for the shōnen category.
As of June 2008, the manga had over 22 million copies in circulation. In 2003, the manga won the Shogakukan Manga Award for best shōnen title of the year. The Zatch Bell! anime series ranked twentieth in animage’s anime popularity poll in 2005. The anime ranked 64th of the Top 100 anime in 2005 according to a web poll conducted by TV Asahi.
Mania.com’s Jarred Pine’s review of the first volume said that the art style was odd yet crude. He also mentioned the art style and explosive action scenes with moments of humor save the series from being recycled material. Anime News Network’s Zac Bertschy review of the anime adaption described it as “…mind-numbingly over-the-top, so enthusiastically bizarre, that it’s difficult to not get sucked into its strange little world” but criticized how it was like a “battle your way to the top while learning important lessons about teamwork and courage” anime. He commented how the “sheer exuberance and energy” saves the show from being a bland anime and how it would be the perfect show for kids. IGN’s review of the series was mostly negative. IGN’s Jason Van Horn criticized the animation, plot, and dubbed voice acting. IGN’s JKB stated the books are more interesting than the animation.
Common Sense Media describes the story as “isn’t just about violence”. They also say that there is always challenges, adversities, and questions of identity that the characters face especially Zatch and Kiyo. They compliment how the characters often think aloud when talking about their painful experiences or flashbacks. They applaud on how each of the characters problems in the series are not far off on what kids deal with today. They criticized how the battles uses visuals, languages, sound effects, and dramatic effects that often get drawn out and sometimes become hard to watch. Overall, they said with the graphic violence and the internal struggles that the different characters face throughout the series some parents may not find Zatch Bell! appropriate for their children under ten years old.
Written and drawn by Makoto Raiku, Zatch Bell! premiered in Shogakukan’s Weekly Shōnen Sunday magazine on January 10, 2001. In December 2005, the series was put on hiatus due to the author injuring his hand. The series resumed its serialization on issue No. 11 of Weekly Shōnen Sunday in February 2006. The series finished its serialization on December 26, 2007. The manga spanned a total of 323 individual chapters and 33 tankōbon volumes.
The series was licensed for an English language release by Viz Media. The first two volumes of the series were released on August 2, 2005. Viz has discontinued the series after volume 25, released on June 9, 2009.
In March 2011, Makoto Raiku released a one-shot chapter of Zatch Bell to promote the re-release of the manga in a new bunkoban format by Kodansha. Sixteen volumes were published between March 8, 2011, and June 7, 2012.
In July 2018, Raiku began releasing a digital sixteen-volume “Complete Edition” of Zatch Bell through his digital publishing company BIRGDIN BOARD Corp. The re-releases consisted of new cover art drawn by Raiku himself, color pages from the original Weekly Shonen Sunday serialization, and a special bonus chapter in each volume called “Zatch Cafe” that features the characters from that volume’s cover. After successful sales and demand from fans, the Zatch Bell Complete Edition began to be released in kanzenban format through Kraken in July 2019, featuring everything that was contained in the digital release. There are no plans for an international release at this time.
Mamodo (魔物, Mamono, lit. “demon”) are mystical creatures with supernatural powers from the parallel Mamodo world. Every 1,000 years, one hundred Mamodo are transported to Earth to compete for the kingship of their world. Each Mamodo’s set of spells are sealed away in a spell book that requires a human companion to read aloud in order to cast them. Only one human can read that Mamodo’s book, whereupon he or she becomes its book owner and partner. Spells cast by the Mamodo produce various effects; along with direct attacks and defenses, there are also spells that temporarily enhance the Mamodo’s abilities, such as agility; render the enemy immobile, or even empower an object they carry. Spells in each book are typically different for each Mamodo, but there are others that carry identical spells—an example of this is Zatch Bell and his twin brother, Zeno Bell. The human and their Mamodo usually start out with one spell but unlock more through experience and hard work. Additionally, the spell book responds to the user’s strong emotions, so that a spell may be generated with greater energy and fervor. The object of the Mamodo battle is to eliminate opponents by burning their spell book. A Mamodo whose spell book has been burnt is then forced to return to the Mamodo world and lose all claim to the position as king. The last Mamodo standing without their book destroyed becomes the new Mamodo king for the next thousand years.
Taking place mostly in modern-day Japan, the story follows Kiyo Takamine, a 14-year-old boy in junior high school. His father, Seitaro Takamine, discovers an unconscious child named Zatch Bell while in a forest in England, and sends Zatch to live with Kiyo. Unlike the other Mamodo, Zatch lost his memory of the Mamodo world. Kiyo first learns about the spell book when he reads a spell causing Zatch to fire lightning from his mouth. As Kiyo and Zatch begin to encounter different Mamodos and learn more about the Mamodo battles, they discover that there are those who do not wish to fight and there are those who fight for the wrong reasons. After meeting a Mamodo named Kolulu and seeing how this kind Mamodo was forced to fight due to the power of her spells, Zatch decides to become a kind king in order to stop the battle from ever happening again. As the story progresses, Zatch and Kiyo meet other Mamodos that share similar views to them and become allies. They meet allies such as Megumi Oumi and Tia in which they specialize in defensive spells such as different types of shields. Kiyo and Zatch meet Folgore and Kanchomé (Canchome) who are both comic relief characters and they only have transformation spells such as Kanchomé being able to turn himself really big. Zatch met Kafk Sunbeam and Umagon earlier in England. Umagon is a Mamodo who specializes in transformation spells that can put armor around his body and increase his speed. Shery (Sherie) Belmont and Brago who was originally Zatch and Kiyo’s rival in the series later becomes their allies and he has gravity type spells.
As the number of Mamodos decreases, Zatch and his allies encounter a Mamodo called Zofis who takes control of several Mamodo who were sealed in stone tablets from the previous battle to decide the king. With Kiyo and Zatch needing more allies, they meet Dr. Riddles and Kido. They helped teach the main allies how to unlock new spells such as Zatch unlocking the sixth spell. Kiyo and Zatch with friends make their way to South America to fight off Zofis and the thousand year Mamodos. Many characters fell and got their book burned. The most notable one was Kido who was sent back to the Mamodo world after fighting Belgium E.O. Ultimately, Sherry and Brago came to help to fight Zofis. Zofis took control of Sherry’s friend Koko who Zofis makes her do evil things such as burning a whole town. Sherry and Brago beat Zofis but not without the help of Kiyo and friends. Sherry gets Koko back to normal and the battle in South America is over. After the battle against Zofis, the whole world is put in danger after a giant Mamodo named Faudo is brought to life by a Mamodo named Riou. Riou was looking for Mamodos that have enough strength to help activate Faudo. So he puts a curse on Li-en and Wonrei who Kiyo and Zatch befriend in the middle of the series. The protagonists make their way to Faudo to try to destroy it and to save their friends. The battle in Faudo was the toughest battle for the characters up to that point in the story. Kiyo almost died against Riou, and many of Zatch’s friends got sent back to the Mamodo world such as Wonrei. Faudo is then taken over by a Mamodo that looks like Zatch, who turns out to be Zatch’s evil twin brother Zeno Bell. Zatch and Zeno have a big fight inside of Faudo. Through Zeno’s flashback, he resented Zatch because their Father King Bell bestowed Zatch the power of Bao, which is Zatch’s strongest spell. Zeno at a young age had to train everyday and always got punished while Zatch lived with another family peacefully. Ultimately, Zeno comprehends that Zatch also suffered too and apologizes for what he has done to Zatch. Zeno gets his book burned and is sent back to the Mamodo world.
Finally, when the number of Mamodos have decreased to ten, an evil and powerful Mamodo named Clear Note appears. With Clear Note’s immense strength the protagonists have to train to fight against Clear Note in the King’s Festival. The King’s Festival is where the final ten Mamodo have to fight to be king. Most notably before the Zatch and Kiyo fought Clear Note, Kanchome got sent back to the Mamodo world when he was ambushed by Clear Note. With Kancome gone before the big fight it Kiyo, Megumi, and Sunbeam vowed to win against Clear Note for Kanchome and Folgore’s sake. Past Mamodos whom Kiyo and Zatch have encountered came to help out. They helped out in a form of spells because Kiyo’s spell book unlocked all of the Mamodo’s spells. Kiyo used Kido’s strongest spell, Wonrei’s strongest spell, and many more spells from their past allies After many sacrifices, Clear Note is defeated leaving Zatch and his ally Brago as the remaining Mamodos. After Kiyo’s graduation ceremony, Zatch and Brago battle and Zatch is crowned the Mamodo King. As a prize for helping Zatch become king, Kiyo is given two options: either getting a wish and forgetting about Zatch, or get nothing but keep his memories of Zatch. He chooses the latter option. Three weeks later, a letter is sent from the Mamodo to their human partners. Zatch’s letter reveals that all is well in the Mamodo world.