"Ikebukuro West Gate Park" is an entertaining manga with fantastic moments and interesting ideas, but it's potential is far from met with it's episodic format. Many may have heard that criticism before and will shrug it over, but the negative in this instance relates to the manga not carrying any meta-narrative throughout the separate story-lines. Cowboy Bebop had a meta-narrative and made great use of it's episodic nature. "Ikebukuro West Gate Park" doesn't make use of it at all and it's biggest sin is having it's ending be conclusive to just the final story-line without touching upon past events and bringing meaning to them. It even had plenty of room to do it (about 1/3 of the final volume). The author instead decided to throw in three mildly-entertaining, goofy short-stories that aren't nearly as interesting/funny as any of the main story-lines.
I also have to disagree with the author's choice on how he handled the last volume and what he focused on. The whole volume centers around this mysterious woman who we get tidbits of information, but the reveal is overwhelmingly anti-climactic even for that story-arc alone. This character could've ideally been created to bring out a weak side of the main character that we haven't seen which is likely there, but instead it's a simple episodic plot. It's odd because the cover of the last volume even pictures that hope perfectly with both the woman and the main character looking similar in expression, the main character looking a bit more defensive than usual (cover ends up being basically irrelevant).
The story-lines are fun though and the characters are enjoyable in that they're alphas mostly and not betas, or they are strong characters in different aspects. These characters are well realized while keeping that manga humor involved. The jokes also manage to be genuinely funny at times while goofy-funny at other times. The first story-line is great too, I'd say it's the heart of the entire manga. I was surprised with how fantastic the pacing was and how much moods and atmospheres were packed in. You get a lot of character development out of the main character and others, and the ending of the arc is even a bit satisfactory - but sadly the rest of the manga never reaches to the height of this. Overall, I'd definitely recommend giving this a read even if just the first volume and a half to enjoy the first story-line. read more