With school back in session, Del Rey's manga comes to the shores of Manga Island in the form of "Gacha Gacha" by Hiroyuki Tamakoshi who brings us pure shonen situational comedy. If you are looking for high school fun with a risqué slant, Calling Manga Island High has you covered.
"Gacha-Gacha" is a title that relishes in comedies of error and lots of fan service (gratuitous breast/panty/bikini shots for those unfamiliar with the term in relation to anime/manga). Hiroyuki Tamakoshi is best known for the popular "Boys Be" manga, which has garnered many fans and has even been adapted into video games on the Playstation. Tamakoshi's "Gacha Gacha" is a comedy for the PG-13 crowd (actually it is listed as ages 16+) that blends risqué situations with the trials and tribulations of high school girls and boys just figuring out what all this adolescence stuff is about. Add in multiple personalities, misguided chivalry, and unconditional friendship, and you get the hilarious and titillating, "Gacha-Gacha."
Kouhei's new school year starts out with a bang as he literally runs (well bikes) into an old friend, the cute friendly Kurara, who is about to go to Hawaii for the summer. While Kouhei tries to figure out his feelings for his old friend, the summer rolls by, until school starts back. Once Kouhei is re-united with Kurara, there is an unmistakable change in her demeanor (and some secrecy about her time in Hawaii). It seems as if a flirtier, sexier, and much more erratic Kurara has come back to into Kouhei's life. Kouhei is confused as Kurara's mood swings from sexy to straight-laced seemingly on a whim, until he finds out her secret.
During the summer, Kurara has developed a second personality, the erotic Arisa. As it turns out Kouhei is called upon to watch over Kurara when she turns into Arisa and prevent her from acting on her much looser impulses. Kouhei's sense of chivalry and friendship puts him into the awkward position of fending off Arisa's advances while trying to be a good friend. To add insult to injury, Kouhei realizes he actually likes Kurara. From here "Gacha Gacha's" premise really takes off, as he is lead on one misadventure after another (usually ending in embarrassment for Kurara, Kouhei, or both). Tamakoshi creates some great situational comic moments with Kouhei and Kurara/Arisa's relationship and sets up a great lead in to the next volume of "Gacha Gacha." By the end of the first volume I definitely felt for Kouhei's situation. He gets his dream girl and her uninhibited side, but can have neitherâ€¦
Tamakoshi is great at drawing cute girls and guys, as well as Kurara's very hot mom. When I was reading and reviewing it, I did have to wonder what age is "too old" to be into high school comedies like "Gacha Gacha." On the one hand the characters are meant to be sexy and alluring, but are also supposed to be high school aged. Not a big problem in Japan for more mature readers, but certainly a taboo in the U.S. Since the shonen demographic tends to be the same age as the kids in "Gacha Gacha," this isn't really a problem, but it did make me wonder at what point are older readers going to be likened to those people with Olsen Twin aged clocks on their computers? Perhaps there should be more josei or seinen (stories centered around 20 something + characters, or with older readers in mind) situation comedies imported and translated, or is the market not quite there yet?? It helps some with the inclusion of the smart, capable, and liberal older woman character of Kurara's mother. Of course, Kouhei (in typical adolescent fashion) doesn't quite know how to handle her either.
Tamakoshi is also very adept at the black and white format of manga and employs some great toning tricks to differentiate Kurara's transformation to her Arisa personality. Clothing patterns and scenery are also deftly handled by Tamakoshi. The character and fashion designs look great, with an excellent flow and over all look to them. Tamakoshi uses wacky facial expressions and visual comedic shorthand sparingly, but to good effect. Of course there are bloody noses and "oops" faces common to many shonen comedies, but I never felt like they were over-used. He is also a master at conveying a flow of action and stopping with a great pose panel that conveys exactly the right stance for what is going on in the scene.
Del Rey has done an excellent job with the extras in "Gacha Gacha." Translation notes and extras are being used to great effect by companies like Del Rey and ADV, and I hope more companies follow suit. The US editors include a really good page on honorifics, what they mean, and why Del Rey has chosen to include them (to use or not use honorifics in translated manga is often a hotly debated topic on anime/manga forums). Del Rey also really goes all out with their translation notes, with pictorial examples and even some information about the Japanese creative teams associated with the book. "Gacha Gacha" also includes a page from the original comic that detailed a call for fan art, with a note that Del Rey will honor their own online art contest. I thought that it was cool of them to not only leave this page in, (a nice piece of art) but to include their own note to honor the call for fan art online is a really nice touch. "Gacha Gacha" also includes a preview of volume two that is both interesting and a little odd, as it seems to take the story into new territory altogether. Over all, I have to commend Del Rey for putting out titles like "Gacha Gacha" and rating them appropriately.
I would definitely be reading even more of these if I was in high school, as I think they hit right on the mark with what I was reading during that time period in my life. If I was still in high school, I would be all about "Gacha Gacha," especially after being stuck in the dreaded "friend zone" more than once. Books like this make me wish that there were more outlets for non-superhero comics and certainly more American teen-centric books from major publishers (and makes me look forward to some of the new OEL manga that is coming out soon). If you are looking to read some new risqué comedy, "Gacha Gacha" should be right up your alley.
Publisher: Del Rey
Volume 1 (of 9)
Rating: Mature 16+ (Sexual situations, and partial nudity)
Links of interest:
Note: Thanks to everyone for replying to my call for ideas on what you want to see more of in future Calling Manga Island articles. Keep a close eye on Manga Island in the near future for exclusives editorials and capsule reviews, all the things that keep you, the readers coming back to the Island to visit - Tony S.
Tony Salvaggio has been a fan of anime and manga from an early age. He has been an animator in the video games industry and is currently co-writing an original graphic novel for Tokyopop, PSY-COMM. He regularly hosts anime and Japanese related shows in Austin and his passion for all things anime and manga related is only excelled by his quest to become King of the Monsters.