By Satoko Kiyuduki. Released in Japan by Houbunsha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Manga Time Kirara Carat. Released in North America by Yen Press.
It may seem like forever, but in reality we’re getting two new volumes by Kiyuduki-san this fall, with this and the 3rd Shoulder-A-Coffin Kuro. This series ended up being far more popular in Japan (much to the consternation of Western fans, who I think prefer the darker Kuro), probably due to its dynamic – let’s face it, if every series you do with cute high school girls living their ordinary lives sells well, you’re going to want more of that. The artist does use this fourth volume to provide a bit more depth and characterization than we’d seen previously, though.
This series has always been compared with Sunshine Sketch (and not just over here – Japanese fanartists cross the two series over a lot), but GA is far more serious about its art. Previous volumes have dealt with color choice, textures, and lettering. This one has the color pages dealing with fashion from early to modern, and the chapters cover topics like the best way to convey water, how to get your model to not pose stiffly, and (in the best sequence) Kisaragi losing her glasses and seeing the rest of the cast as indistinct, vegetable-like shapes. For a 4-koma cutie series, the artist is not afraid to experiment within its boundaries.
Speaking of which, one series starring Noda, the flakey and eccentric girl, shatters the fourth wall in what turns out to be a long dreams sequence (which surprised me, as usually it’s Kisaragi who gets those sorts of stories). Noda, by the way, enjoys teasing Namiko, the straight woman of the group, about her weight and her larger chest. It was entertaining seeing that Namiko is starting to fight back in a deadpan way, and seeing Noda getting all upset is quite amusing, given she’s normally so hyperactive and cheery. Speaking of Namiko, she may be the perfect oneesama character to keep everyone else in check, but apparently her home ec skills show she’s not ready to be a perfect Japanese housewife just yet.
As for the third-year group that’s our secondary cast of GA characters, they get some nice spotlight time as well. Awara ends up wandering into said home ec class, and gets corralled into helping Kisaragi and Namiko make pasta. We also learn her eyesight is exceptional, almost preternaturally so. This is a contrast to the bespectacled Uozumi, who not only needs glasses but turns out to be color-blind (which, this being GA, leads to a discussion of how color-blind people see art and what Van Gogh painted). And in the final chapter of the volume, we see the sickly Tomokane brother, having passes out in the sun (his being sickly has been a plot point throughout) musing on the relationship between him and his sister (also Tomokane – the artist has deliberately avoided giving them first names) and how they contrast perfectly with each other. Not to mention how his sister apparently has psychic powers to know when he needs her help…
As I noted above, there are a ton of cute girl 4-koma series out there, even in North America. Most need something beyond the initial gimmick to keep you reading. And besides the bond between the cast members, humor, and occasional bits of character development, this series simply makes you more interested in art, and how artists see things. It’s great fun, and I’m pleased that we finally have the 4th volume. It’s coming out very slowly in Japan, though, so it may be a while before we see it again.