Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gatcha Gacha Volume 5

By Yutaka Tachibana. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine Melody. Released in North America by Tokyopop.

This review is utterly filled with spoilers for this entire volume.

Having teased us for four volumes, this is the one where most of the plot guns are fired off. We left off last time at the culture festival, where Yabe ran into a girl who looked just like Motoko's dead older sister Kanako. But... Kanako's dead, right? After all, Motoko would never lie to us! Motoko, sadly, is AWOL, cutting school to try to figure out what's going on, while Yabe continues his clean-cut look, an obvious sign that he's not over Kanako at all.

This volume, as with all of this series, lives and dies by its four leads. Yabe, knowing that he'd be better off with Yuri but also knowing that means very little to him. Hirao, still trying to make Yuri happy while being unable to tell her of his own feelings. Yuri, pinballing from one emotional extreme to another as she ends up sobbing by the end of the volume (and we're reminded of Motoko's warning to Yabe, "You're gonna make Yuri cry in the end. 100% guaranteed."). And Motoko, doing what she does best: playing the villain, hitting on attractive women, and doing her best to protect Yuri from the inevitable.

Surprisingly, Kanako actually plays a large part in this as well. She knows that she has amnesia, and can figure out fairly quickly that Yabe and Motoko are connected with her past. But she doesn't, at first, want anything to do with it. Considering how Tachibana portrayed her in the past volumes, it's very odd to see her handled sympathetically in this one. After all, her past involved incestuous jealousy and attempted murder. Why would anyone want her to get that back?

My favorite scene in the volume is probably when Motoko - after 3 tries in previous books - finally tells everyone the truth of what happened with Kanako that evening when she "collapsed", and how the entire family conspired to "kill" her. Yabe is, understandably, furious, and punches Motoko to the ground with a right cross. One can argue about whether or not Motoko deserved this, but the telling part is Hirao's inner narration - Motoko played up her nastier side to get herself hit, as she hated herself for what they did. But again, I could spend several blog posts just analyzing Motoko.

This all comes to a head in the finale of this volume, where Kanako is kidnapped by the gay street gang that is after Sekine. By now Sekine has become a secondary target, and their main goal is to beat Motoko and Yabe to death, by any means necessary. (As I noted in Volume 3, this series is not known for its tolerance of gay men, or writing them as anything other than crappy cliches. It's a major fault.) Unfortunately for them, when they knocked Kanako out to kidnap her, they also provided the impetus for her memories to return.

Interestingly, she's NOT immediately psychotic and evil again, as her 'new self' is fusing with the old, and her mind flashes back to her treatment of Yabe, calling it into question. She's convinced he won't come to rescue her - after all, she did stab him - and when he does, she ends up confused and in tears, convinced that he's now doing this to hurt her. It's very well-written, and gives us hope for future volumes, even as she reverts to her Motoko-obsessed selfish self at the end.

So Volume 5 is over, and Yuri and Yabe lasted precisely two volumes as a couple. Yuri's curse strikes again! Of course, there *is* a non-bad boy who's in love with her. But he's a wuss. Will Volume 6 be the kick in the head Hirao needs to finally get his girl? ... Wait, no one cares about the guys in this manga (least of all the author, who notes this several times). What will happen with Yuri and Motoko? We shall see... In the meantime, this is probably my favorite volume of Gatcha Gacha to date, providing humor, drama, and tons of soap opera.

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