Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gatcha Gacha Volume 6

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

In this volume, we think that we've finally learned all the backstory. Kanako is back, and she remembers who she is. Sadly, this means that Yabe is obsessing on her again, and has broken up with Yuri, who is trying to cope as best she can. Meanwhile, Hirao is trying to cheer Yuri up, while also getting up the gumption to confess. And of course, Motoko stands on the sidelines, pointing and laughing at it all.

This does not mean that the volume is without interest. There's a lot going on here. Kanako, for one, is surprising everyone but the reader. The reader notes she's being obnoxiously clingy towards Motoko, rude towards everyone else, and positively violent towards Yuri. Motoko, however, sees what we don't - she's not transferring schools to be with Motoko 24/7, nor is she moving back to the mansion. And she's jealous of anyone getting Motoko's attention, yes, but also seems to be jealous of those going after Yabe as well. She has, in fact, moved from being a psychotic evil girl to merely being a clingy jealous girl. In a series like this, that *is* an improvement. Kanako may not, in fact, realize this herself, as Motoko has to point out how Yabe's prior relationship with Yuri is affecting her.

Speaking of Yabe, he continues to slouch through this series like the worst boyfriend ever. He definitely seems to have feelings for Yuri, but seems content not to act upon them. He notes, when Hirao asks if he loves Yuri, that he thinks Hirao would be a much better boyfriend for her. Which is completely avoiding the question, of course. It's also true. Yabe would be a wretched boyfriend for anyone. Kanako is still throwing off his advances, but she's at least not attempting to stab him or sleep with him in a fit of rage anymore (I think she finally realizes that Yabe is not about to seduce Motoko anytime soon), so I suspect they will get together eventually.

That, of course, would leave Yuri with Hirao. It's a rare shoujo manga that shows the nice but ineffectual guy winning (that's more shonen harem), so it would be a change of pace. There are a few things working against it, of course. First of all, Yuri seems to have no idea that Hirao even thinks of her in a romantic way. This, at least, is cleared up halfway through the book, when Hirao finally mans up and confesses. Secondly, Yuri has no idea how to deal with a guy who's confessed to her. All her prior relationships have been her confessing to other guys, and her seizing the initiative. Which would be fine, if she hadn't had 13 horrible ex-boyfriends. Motoko spells this out for her - she's only attracted to losers and jerks.

Of course, Hirao has his own comedic one-sided crush, in the form of Hanada, his vice-president. She's been presented throughout this manga as comic relief, and that doesn't change, but she does at least force Yuri to start thinking a bit. She's been getting picked on a lot less recently, which is odd as Hirao is just as popular as Yabe, and the whole school now knows he likes her. Of course, this is just an illusion - the other girls hate her just as much, but someone is stopping them. We see this in action in an awesome scene at the school at 6am, where 3 girls trying to write graffiti on the school walls (calling Yuri a bitch and a whore), they're stopped by Hirao, who notes that he's even going to beat the crap out of him, then resign as president. Luckily, he doesn't need to go that far. He also trips over a paint can and falls on his ass. And Yuri finally realizes that he's maybe enough of a loser for her to like.

As for Motoko, as I noted she exists on the periphery of this volume, but that doesn't mean she has nothing to do. I already noted her insight about her sister, but we also see her starting to think about how she *really* feels about Yuri and Hirao hooking up. Sekine asks what she thinks about it and she replies, "Dunno." Motoko's tendency towards leering after and ogling young girls has been a running gag through the series, usually played for comedy - she's noted she's not gay more than once. However, we've never once seen her interested in any guy whatsoever, and Yabe for one is pretty sure that she's in denial. He points out to Sekine that the one problem with Sekine's becoming a man enough to confess to Motoko is that she only likes girls. And when it's noted that Yuri's craving for bad boys might extend to her - Motoko is after all worse than any of them - Motoko grins, and says "If I were a guy, would you ask me out?". Yuri, flushing, can't answer her.

I still wouldn't call this a 'yuri' manga, and suspect it's just a bunch of tease. The author certainly has difficulty writing gay MEN in the series without them being horrible caricatures. Still, I still find Gatcha Gacha hideously enjoyable. Lots of comedy (I love Motoko's softball breakdown, where she can't resist serving up easy-to-hit pitches to the pretty girls), lots of melodrama (I didn't even get into Yuri's bald spot), and four terrific leads, who are not remotely admirable but are nevertheless wonderful to read about.

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