Gacha Gacha Vol. #02 (Mania.com)

By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Sunday, January 22, 2006
Release Date: Sunday, January 01, 2006



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Tamakoshi Hiroyuki
Translated by:Mike Kiefl
Adapted by:

What They Say
A TROUBLING TRANSFORMATION

Kouhei was just developing feelings for his childhood friend Kurara when she went on vacation to Hawaii. Or her return, she brought home a sexy new split personality, "Arisa." Kouhei swore to stay by Kurara's side to protect her shocking secret - but just when he's growing accustomed to Arisa's antics, Kurara transforms into "Alice," another personality!

Alice may look like Kurara on the outside, but on the inside she's a fourteen-year-old girl who's convinced that Kouhei is a tutor. Sounds simple enough, but there's a catch: It seems the only subject Alice is interested in is male anatomy. How in the world will Kouhei cope with this development?

Plus - the origin of Kurara's split personalities is revealed, along with a forth, deadly personality.

The Review
Packaging:
Del Rey's Gacha Gacha generally looks pretty good from start to finish. First, Del Rey uses a slightly larger version of the original cover art for this volume. On the front are the three personalities of main character Kurara (from left - Alice, Kurara and Arisa). This piece is cute, but it does not distinguish the personalities very well. The opposite cover has Alice (?) popping out of a green gachapon ball on a blue background above the long volume description. While the logo uses some of the concepts of the one from Kodansha, it does not use the two sided gachapon element as much as I would have liked to see.

Inside, the printing looks fine. The screen tone looks good to me and the lines are clean. This manga has a very busy layout, so seeing it as clear as possible is important. Del Rey seems to have done that well this time. They keep the original volume and chapter headers.

A little short on extras, this volume has some fan art, a brief word from the mangaka and a creator bio along with the usual untranslated preview and ads.

Artwork:
Shonen manga readers might recognize Tamakoshi’s character designs. In case you don't, he is the artist for all three Boy Be… series (the second series is currently being released by TOKYOPOP). And if you are still not sure who he is, Tamakoshi’s art revolves around one thing – the female body. Tamakoshi’s designs are fantastic. Great proportion, his characters have a good sense of form where their bodylines accentuate curves at just the right places. Length and depth looks good from almost every perspective, which is something that tends to happen a bit especially when character designs are pretty fancy close up. Faces are done with good concept of capturing expressions. This is critical when dealing with Kurara’s unique problem. Tamakoshi also has a good sense of style. So, unlike many shonen titles where characters tend to wear the same outfits chapter after chapter, specifically out of school, there is some variety here.

Just want to give some people a heads up, that while there are plenty of risqué situations there is no nudity in this volume. Plenty of panty shots and close-ups on cleavage but no nudity. (which is typical of Tamakoshi)

Background art is decent. The designs can be pretty nice, especially when Tamakoshi takes into consideration the ability for one of the characters to do the unexpected in unexpected places. The layout is not too shabby, either. Tamakoshi loves to use close-ups, which carried over from Boys Be... as well. During these close-ups, he often focuses on the expressions on character's faces or the point of view from a specific person - often in times of shock or excitement.

SFX/Text:
As is Del Rey's policy, SFX are subbed. Their subs tend to be of a small font usually placed below the original SFX. Because of the font size, original art is not compromised, but with the lack of SFX in this series (kind of weird for an action title) one might not notice them at times. Still, I appreciate the effort and the more I see this done the more I find myself liking it (font size and placement can make a big difference).

The translation sounds good and everything should be satisfactory to fans of this series. I did not notice any typos, syntax errors or blatant translation mistakes. The personalities come out sounding very casual and that works for this volume.

Del Rey also provides translator notes and an honorifics decoder, giving readers an opportunity to get to pick up on some cultural notes and a bit of what was lost in translation.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It has not been long since Kouhei found out that his love interest Kurara suddenly developed a split personality. Actually he is one of the few people that knows a thing about the condition, as Kurara entrusted in him that knowledge to help her protect her safety.... From herself, well the other personality within her. Got to say Kouhei has been a good sport for doing this. Maybe keeping tabs on two personalities within one girl might not sound like a tough job, but Arisa's sexual advances have been quite a distraction. Moreover, Kouhei has been volunteering despite not being privy to why Kurura is suffering from this condition. Ultimately, whether he likes Kurara or not, being given the responsibility he feels that he is the only person capable of doing this.

Well, maybe he has gone way over his head. If two personalities within one sexy high school girl was a handful, try three. Better yet why no try four within the person of the girl he is in love with. Kouhei has no clue what is bringing all of this on, moreover Kurara is not even aware of what is happening. This is quickly becoming unimaginable and uncontrollable. And this poor beef-bowl eating kid has to somehow try to contain Alice, Arisa and Rin before they kill people, pull people's pants off and get Kurara pregnant.

The only way to control the increasing number of personalities developing from Kurara's mind is to understand the origin of the disorder. Kouhei is not going to have an easy time fully understanding the unique circumstances that have brought on this problem for Kurara, but at least the disclosure will give him a chance to see why and what this is happening. While a little bit embarrassing for Kurara, as her irresponsible behavior facilitated, her finally opening up also gives them both a bit relief. Unfortately, there is much to be concerned about as they also discover one potential resolutions to Kurara's condition. What if three new personalities is only the start?! What will happen to the original then!?

Comments
GachaGacha started off with a quirky but good concept - dissociative identity disorder (DID). With the love comedy already strongly settled in, that main element had turned into a deciding factor for me. With a few directions to take, I just wanted to see that idea go somewhere; instead of watching it turn into a gimmick. DID can be brought on by various forms of trauma. Whether based solely on psychological or physiological reasons, quite often the mind develops these additional personalities to defend itself while under duress. As people with DID associate with dissiociation as a safe mechanism to protect themselves, the psyche can split multiple times over. In volume one Tamakoshi tried very hard to avoid the subject but for this series to continue, he finally reveals the secrets of “GachaGacha”.

Tamakoshi's twist on this medical theory can only work in a manga or some 80's PG13 sci-fi comedy. Kurara's problems might stem from something out of an otaku's nightmare, but understanding why they developed cleared up the majority of issues I had with this story. While there is some dissociation involved, its reasons are completely voluntary. This is where the Sci-fi element comes in, bringing with it elements that fans of fan service filled fandom - anime, manga or video games - will appreciate. Tamakoshi creates virtual otaku’s fantasy. He takes his cast into a video game world where concepts of love and war would be real and free flowing. Additionally it can be taylored to the specs of the player. An interactive fantasy world based on the whims of the player… Who wouldn’t want in? Who wouldn’t want to explore every door and alleyway!

As soon as that point was made, I could finally laugh at Kurura’s incompetence. Conversely, once the conflict was presented, I could finally feel for Kouhei and his uphill battle to aide a friend that not only deserved his assistance but his love and care. The comedy no longer seems meaningless. Moreover, the frustration behind Kurara not wanting to share her secret starts to make sense.

What a difference a plot makes! Sure, eye-candy and sexual curiosity is on its own somewhat fascinating and titillating. Now give those elements a story to tell based on a somewhat tangible conflict and that manga can stimulate in more ways than one. I still do not feel GachaGacha is an "A" title, yet simply providing some sense of structure has made this title a bit more enjoyable. This title still has very little direction. Tamakoshi reveals his cards, but the main characters are doing nothing to resolve the problem. Instead, Tamakoshi moves into a more structured version of Boys Be, where he doesn’t switch characters every chapter; now he only switches personalities and poses. GachaGacha would possibly be better served as a short series instead of running for 5 volumes (the other 5 have a different cast). As much as I like fan service, I can get that elsewhere (boys be..). How about some shonen romance comedy, huh?



Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Del Rey
MSRP: 10.95
Pages: 198
ISBN: 0-345-48622-6
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left