Stand back as five high school girls learn all about art and design – puni-moe style!
Writer/Artist: Satoko Kiyuduki
Translation: Tomo Kimura
Adaptation: Tomo Kimura
What They Say
This 4-koma (4-panel) manga features the daily lives of five female art majors in their senior year of high school. This volume depicts what their classes are like. Additionally, reading the manga helps you to learn about the basics of art and color.
The wraparound cover design features our five GA girls in a stereotypical team superhero action pose. Wearing their school uniforms, they brandish various art supplies with looks of determination (my favorite is Noda, who's wielding pencils between her fingers the way a ninja would daggers). The background is plain white with a large pink GA logo decorating the center top backdrop and the title overlaid on top of that. Magenta and orange circles spelling out the name of the mangaka are lined along the bottom. At the top of the back flap are the ISBN and the age rating icon, followed by the story synopsis in plain black type. Decorating the lower portion are the GA logo and mangaka name in magenta and extremely cute illustrations of poster paint containers which have pictures of characters or art supplies as labels.
Yen Press has done an excellent job producing this title. In addition to the larger A5 size, it also includes several full-color pages (one or two inserted approximately every 5 to 10 pages). The color pages are printed not on glossy paper but on the same durable bright white stock used throughout the book. The printing is crisp, and the binding feels durable. Extras include five pages of translation notes at the end and notes from the author, which are for some reason placed on page 25.
The mangaka describes the series as a "4-koma (four-panel comic strip) with cute and puni-moe(?) girls," and the GA girls do fit that description. Though the characters are 15 years old, they are depicted in a style usually associated with elementary or middle school girls. Their heads are large on their bodies, and their oval eyes take up much of their faces (Kisaragi's huge glasses extend from ear-to-ear and down to chin level). And of course, for the humorous scenes, the sizes of heads, mouths, and eyes are further exaggerated for emphasis. One of the weaknesses of GA's artwork is that the girls' faces are essentially identical, and the only way to differentiate is by looking at hairstyle and Kisaragi's glasses. As such, in the panels where the characters were cosplaying as "Color Rangers," telling characters apart was extremely difficult. Except for Namiko (the busty one of the group), their bodies are relatively shapeless. Despite the limits of the 4-koma format (no sweeping backgrounds here), the mangaka manages to put a surprising amount of detail into school buildings, interiors, and art supplies.
Sound effects are translated side-by-side the originals or, in places where it is too crowded, placed in panel gutters as footnotes. Writing and signs are translated using footnotes in panel gutters.
Dialogue translation is satisfactory. Honorifics are retained although no guide to honorifics is provided, and some honorifics (such as "-dono”) are not defined in the translation notes. Five pages of translation notes are provided in the back, and most readers will need to refer to them continuously. In addition to jokes involving everything from Japanese historical figures to Japanese pop culture, there are numerous references to technical art terms that most readers won't understand. While the notes provide sufficient explanations of these terms, having to refer to them continuously will likely prove this title's largest barrier to readability. By the way, there are no asterisks or other indicators in the actual body of the manga to indicate which terms are defined in the translation notes.
It's Kisaragi's first year in GA, Geijutsuka Art Design Class, the specialized art and design department at her high school. However, the ditzy freshman doesn't know much about art at all! Fortunately, she's got four friends at her side, ready to help! However, she'll have to be careful around energetic Tomokane, whose exuberance has caused the demise of several art projects! And Noda's playfulness might just prove a little too distracting when deadlines are looming. However, the responsible Namiko is around keep everyone in line, and honor student Professor always has a ready explanation when there are questions. Whether it's redoing the modern techniques project for the third time, fantasizing through collage, or pranks in the cafeteria, there's never a dull moment for Kisaragi and her friends!
Though I have seen the 4-koma format as extras in manga titles such as Full Metal Alchemist, GA is the first series I've read where that format is used throughout (though I understand that the Azumanga Daioh manga is also presented in this format). The layout is closer to what you'd find in newspaper comics than in a more standard manga, and story arcs are delivered through several strips. As such, although GA seems thin at 128 pages, it actually took me longer to read than some 200-page manga titles because each strip delivers its own joke (for the most part) and there are two strips per page. GA also includes a number of full-color pages with slightly larger layouts similar to what you'd find in Sunday comics.
However, though the format might seem less daunting to readers used to American newspaper comics, that doesn't mean you won't have to invest effort to enjoy it. As mentioned in the Text/Translation Section, unless you are well versed in both Japanese culture and art design terms, you will be visiting the translation notes in the back quite often. In the opening section, I had to flip to the translation notes for every page. While there are some gags that don't involve foreign/technical references, the vast majority of puns do.
Regarding the manga itself, the back cover says, "With the aid of full-color pages throughout, you too can learn the basics of color theory and become a great artist yourself!" As such, I initially thought it was an instructional manga with various stories interweaved between lessons. It's actually the other way around. The manga's primary focus is the silliness of the characters who just happen to be in an art program, and the mangaka occasionally throws in facts about art theory for flavor. The mangaka herself writes, "Oh, and regarding the art information in this manga: you shouldn't really trust it." As for our five main characters, they are by and large stereotypes, and there isn't much character development involved.
Still, if you're willing to put in the effort to enjoy some short-form high school comedy, the GA girls are very cute, and the color pages are impressive.
This title is rated teen for minor profanity and the sheer number of cultural and art technique references required to appreciate the manga's humor.