I know it’s only Tuesday, but I’ve been sick the past few days, and so asked Sean to hustle and write me a guest review for today. And he did! So, once again, let’s welcome back Guest Reviewer, Sean Gaffney!
I’ve already reviewed Gatcha Gatcha, Volume 8 on my own blog, but since I had previously done an overview of the series here in September 2008, I thought that I would come back and dwell a bit on the more Yuri-friendly aspects of the series as a whole.
First, a small digression. A lot of manga have sidebar comments interspersed throughout the volumes. In the magazine, this is a place where the page was thinner so that an advertisement could be placed. For the volume, the publisher asks the artist to fills those spaces with original material to draw in a reader who may not want to buy something they already read in the pages of, say, Melody magazine. As readers of shoujo manga know, 90% of the time the material is the artist talking about what they ate, or where they shopped, or the awesome fellow manga artist they hung out with, or simply whining about how awful they are. And Yutaka Tachibana does this a bit too, no doubt. But she also discusses this series, and the choices she made.
She talks about Motoko, and how the editor asked for her more violent and lecherous tendencies to be toned down, but that Tachibana put her foot down. She also mentions Yuri, and said that she tried to make her a girl who’d only gone as far as kissing with her boyfriends, but felt Yuri worked better when she was ‘less pure’. More to the point, Tachibana wrote this manga ‘doing what she felt like’, and decided to simply dispense with most of the shoujo romance most series demand. Volume 8 gives us a good idea of why – it doesn’t fit the characters at mall. At least not the female characters. Yuri spends most of this volume trying to get herself to fall out of love with Yabe and in love with Hirao. She certainly does have some feelings for Hirao, and notes that she’d be jealous if she saw him with another girl. But she doesn’t get him. When she finally goes on a date with him – a very awkward one – she senses stares coming from the other females in the room, and worries that they all see Hirao as some ’empty-headed bimbo’. Later, seeing him blushing after eating a bite of her food, she compares him to… a princess.
Role reversal is the order of the day throughout this volume. Yuri dreams of being rescued from a snowy mountaintop by a ‘prince’ whose face she can’t quite make out. It’s clearly Motoko, but she hasn’t yet connected those dots. Later, she and Hirao are captured by the evil gang leader who’s been trying to make everyone’s life miserable this whole series. She then decides to disguise herself as Hirao and take the abuse and torture of her captors so that he can escape. Yuri is supposed to be the blushing shoujo heroine, only she simply can’t fall into those lines.
Neither does Motoko. Her main character arc wrapped up in Book 7, so here she simply does what she does best – makes insensitive yet telling remarks and beats up tons and tons of people. Much of this is a facade, of course – we’ve seen how much Motoko cares for Yuri, and she’s been trying to get her and Hirao to stumble towards each other almost from Day One. It’s not working, though, and clearly Yuri’s happiness is more important to her than she ever expected – Sekine understands this when he asks in a prior volume how she feels about Yuri and Hirao, and Motoko blankly replies “Dunno.”
So the climax of the series is, of course, Motoko coming to Yuri’s rescue, not Hirao. And in the final scene, we see Motoko finally at peace with herself. Her big sister is back, but seems to have lost the obsession with Motoko that led to jealous insanity. Motoko even cut her hair again, now that she doesn’t have to be ‘girly’ to ward off Kanako’s affections. And Yuri notices, saying that Motoko looks cool and makes her heart skip a beat. Now, Motoko had flirted with Yuri in a joking way several volumes earlier, but this comment seems to pull her up short. Then she just smiles and says “You bet I do.” This is lampshaded by the author, who has Sekine noting to Hirao while this is going on that Hirao has to win Yuri quickly and keep her or else he’ll lose her. But then the final line of the author’s narration is “Then again… maybe it’s already too late?”
The author already mentioned she stood her ground on keeping Yuri and Motoko the flawed yet far more awesome characters they were. More to the point, most of the time she didn’t go for the easy out, or the typical plot. The narrative, from the start, clearly was about the meeting and subsequent friendship of these two girls. And the two guys co-starring were shown, over and over, to be fairly weak and ineffectual, no matter what was done to toughen them up. As a result,
when it’s implied Yuri and Motoko get together at the end, this isn’t a surprise. It’s what the series has been working towards.
Art – 6. Still can get busy and confusing, especially during action scenes.
Story – 7. There are some cliches here, don’t get me wrong, but I liked the way the author stuck to her guns much of the time.
Characters – 9. Fantastic, especially the females. Even the psycho incestuous sister, Kanako, gets a depth rarely seen in psycho incestuous sisters.
Yuri (no, not the character): 5. It can still be read as hypothetical, but you’d have to squint, especially with the final pages.
Servicey – 2. There’s not a heck of a lot of service here.
Overall: 8. A highly underrated series from Tokyopop, and I’m pleased that it is finally finished. Definitely worth the effort to find it.
Also, the inside cover picture has Motoko wearing a fedora while snuggling Yuri. Fedoras make everyone sexier.