By Usamaru Furuya. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialized in the magazine Jump Square. Released in North America by Viz.
The second volume of Genkaku Picasso has some of the same weaknesses as the first, though it's making an effort to fix them a little. The plot itself and its solutions still feel a bit too easy at times, and we sometimes veer into the world of After School Special here. On the other hand, Picasso himself is far more likeable in this volume. He's still not particularly inspiring, and he's still introverted and whiny, but he's come to mostly accept the situations he's in by the end of this volume, is slowly gaining friends, and we even see him having fun.
The art continues to be a strength, at least in the inner world sequences, where we see the issue that the guest star of the chapter is fighting against. My favorite was the Joan of Arc shot, with some very nice medieval knights. Speaking of art, Picasso is all about that, and it's nice to see him focusing on ants and human musculature, finding them fascinating because of their artistic qualities.
There's a few really obvious parodies and pastiches here. Chapters 2 and 3 are clearly a takeoff on giant robot shows in general and Evangelion and Gundam Wing in particular. The distinction between 2-D and 3-D characters is one that Japanese otaku can identify with easily, so seeing it from the opposite perspective as a BL obsession shouldn't be too off-putting. (This assumes that Jump Square still has a mostly male readership, of course.) Likewise, the last chapter is mostly poking at Walt Disney's Disneyland, with a bit of Tezuka in there as well. Of course, it uses them to take a look at the idol process, which can be far more difficult than it first appears.
There's some intriguing 'extras' at the end, consisting of a few pages of 4-koma gag strips (which are more traditional 4-koma than Furuya's edgy Short Cuts), including some funny character bits and possibly the most explicit bit of the whole volume (though it's 'censored'). There's also an 'advice column', where Jump readers apparently wrote in with some issues which Picasso and Chiaki then answer in character. As you'd expect, Chiaki's advice tends to be more useful, and she even kicks Picasso out and brings in the other two girls for the last, female-oriented question. Some nice fourth-wall breaking here involving Chiaki's presence as well.
This is not really top of the line Furuya. For that, check out Short Cuts or wait for Lychee Light Club this April. But if it was a way to get his stuff out to a wider audience, it works pretty well. The series ends with the next volume, and there are some implications that he may have to finally deal with both his own personal foibles but also Chiaki's death. I'll be interested to see how this is wrapped up.