GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class, Vol. 6

By Satoko Kiyuduki. Released in Japan by Houbunsha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Manga Time Kirara Carat. Released in North America by Yen Press.

As ever, one reason that GA is probably my favorite “4-koma about girls in a school setting and their daily lives’ manga is the art school setting. Art pervades the entire title, and we get explanations of art history each time by the cast, who are trying to understand it themselves. This volume it’s the periods of art history, ranging from the Ancient Greeks to the Renaissance to Baroque and Rococo periods, with each represented by a cast member in the appropriate pastiche. If a point needs to be made that falls outside the scope of modern life, we can have the cast members having a dream, which Kisaragi (typically) does at the start, and Namiko (far less typically) does later on. The characters’ eccentricities drive the comedy, but art drives the plot. (Such as it is – this is still a 4-koma at heart.)


Speaking of the characters’ eccentricities, this series usually has one chapter per volume that takes a closer look at quiet, reserved Miyabi, and this one is no exception. When asked to identify student’s artwork from a random selection, hers is the first they pick out, because it’s the best. As we discover, she’s been talented her entire life, but getting told that she’s good in everything she does has become somewhat meaningless to her, to the point where she seeks out advice from a teacher. Miyabi has a lot of other issues North American readers don’t have to deal with (her impending arranged marriage, for one), but I think many will feel for her here, and be intrigued by her obsession with the color black, which has mostly been used comedically in the past. Of course, it’s Kisaragi who ends up pulling her out of her funk – the two have the deepest bond among the cast.

The other chapter that really caught my eye was the one that traveled back in time to 1972, looking at a period when the school’s fashion department was separate from the art school. We see five students – who of course look amazingly like our own cast, but with different names and slight variations – dealing with their own issues, mostly revolving around current trends in fashion. They try to imagine what the school uniform will look like in 2014, and come quite close to Kisaragi’s own uniform. This odd time machine-like chapter is one reason why I never really get tired of GA despite its comedy antics – there’s always a new perspective on things.

There are also typical school plots here, though done with an art school touch. In the athletic competition, they have to create art to be used, and one boy overdoes it with a giant paper mache crane (which ends up, by various wacky events, becoming more of a riceball). The best gag here is probably the relay race and its resolution, which relies on family resemblance. Towards the end we have the school festival, where Awara and her art club members are pulling out all the stops in creating a 3D art exhibit, and rope in Kisaragi and her friends to help. It’s nice to see the groups, which rarely interact within the series, coming together like this – something lampshaded by Awara herself.

The usual caveats apply – if you don’t like 4-koma comedies with lots of one-liners and cute but eccentric girls, this will not change your mind. If you do but are a bit tired of the sameness, give GA a try. If nothing else, you’ll learn about art.

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