Gacha Gacha: The Next Revolution Vol. 1-2 (Del Rey)

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Akira transforms from a boy to a girl every time he sneezes. Sound contrived? Sure, but the series itself has a surprising transformation up its sleeve.

 

 

218 pgs. B&W; $12.95 ea.

(W / A: Hiroyuki Tamakoshi)

 

The cover to GG:TNR Vol. 1. Click thumbnail for a larger image.Like every other boy in his high school, Akira Hatsushiba has a mad crush on class hottie Yurika Sakuraba. Even though he's your typical red-blooded teenager, Akira's feelings for Yurika are more or less wholesome, but then one day he gets a double dose of embarrassment in front of her and is sure he's blown his chance. Dejected, he heads off to the arcade to blow off some steam where a mishap with the virtual reality game Gacha Gacha has an unexpected side effect: every time Akira sneezes, he switches genders. Though she won't give the male Akira the time of day, his female half becomes Yurika's instant BFF. But what will Yurika do if she finds out the girl she's showered and changed in front of isn't really a girl?

 

Manga revolving around transforming characters are a dime a dozen, and when you're competing against well-known masterpieces like Rumiko Takahashi's martial arts sex comedy Ranma ½, you  better have something new to bring to the table. Gacha Gacha creator Hiroyuki Tamakoshi first made his name by drawing a virtual smorgasbord of nubile girls in various incarnations of the series Boys Be… (available in English from Tokyopop), and Del Rey's first 5-volume Gacha Gacha series (also released by Del Rey) let the artist prove his artistic chops with a female lead who could transform into a whole slew of sexy female video game characters. From his track record, it would seem obvious what "new angle" Tamakoshi would pursue for Gacha Gacha's latest incarnation: cheesecake, and lots of it.

 

The cover to GG:TNR Vol. 1. Click thumbnail for a larger image.On that front, at least, he immediately delivers what he promises; the first page alone has 3 pantyshots on it, for crying out loud. Tamakoshi's good girl art is tailor-made for a book like this, whose premise gives him ample excuses to draw cute girls in semi-compromised positions, and he's only helped by Del Rey's choice to print this book in their new, larger "Mature Readers" format. The problem, however, is that sexy girls are about all he has to offer in The Next Revolution's first volume, as the plotting is ludicrously formulaic. Each chapter in the book's first volume seems like it was stamped out of the same mold: Akira pines over Yurika as a boy, then turns into a girl so he can be with her. Yurika and the girl Akira get in some situation that allows Yurika to try on some skimpy clothes (a new outfit every chapter!) that results in accidental nudity, causing Akira's nose to bleed. The art even starts following patterns, every sexy shot of Yurika featuring a full body shot, a close-up of her chest, and a close-up of her ass. Lather, rinse, repeat. You almost have to admire his slavish devotion to formula, if only it didn't make for such boring reading.

 

The lengths to which Tamakoshi goes for a cheap cheesecake shot are impressive in their sheer ridiculousness. When Yurika and her friends take "Akira-chan" bra shopping, the ease with which they start ripping off each others clothes and fondling each other's breasts borders on laughable, although you'll probably learn more about how to accurately size a bra than you ever wanted to know. Tamakoshi leaps over the lines of good taste when the kids build a cosplay café for a school project, letting the artist run loose with a bevy of girls in every variety of fetishized outfit before ending the chapter with Yurika prostrate on the table as she serves Akira coffee. The first volume of GG:TNR is so ridiculous even the characters comment on it...Yurika repeats the phrase "This is so embarrassing" so many times that you not only feel embarrassed for her, but embarrassed to even be reading the book. If I were simply a reader, it would have been very easy to set down that first volume and happily never touch the series again, but being a reviewer I felt that I had some journalistic responsibility to give the work a fair shake, so I grudgingly charged ahead into volume 2. Tamakoshi had a surprising trick up his sleeve:

 

He actually made me care about the characters.

 

What's amazing about this development is that it happens without much significant change in the book's formula. The book's tone shifts in the first chapter of the second volume, when Yurika volunteers Akira to help sell Christmas cakes at her uncle's café. The two of them spend time together, and when she spies him committing a random act of kindness, she finally starts to warm to his MALE side. Finally, the series offers what its first volume lacked completely: romantic tension. When the cast then makes a trip to the hot springs (de rigeur for a book like this), things get even more entangled, leading to the formation of the kind of multi-sided love polygon that this kind of story thrives upon. Now, finally, we're starting to get somewhere.

 

....but when the romantic tension kicks in, it's surprisingly compelling.This isn't to say that Tamakoshi has magically fixed everything wrong with the book. Many of the complaints about the first volume still hold true: the way each chapter flows IS still formulaic, the cheesecake art IS still repetitive, the plotting IS still contrived. But now, at least, there's finally something to finally grab onto. The characterization is more enriched, as well, especially in the case of Akira, as he believably reacts to his conflicted emotions between wanting to be with Yurika and yet betraying her trust when he does so as a girl. None of this will be enough to change the minds of anyone who gave up reading this review halfway through the plot synopsis, but there's at least enough substance here to recommend to fans of this kind of ecchi sex comedy.

 

Despite its change in fortune, Gacha Gacha: The Next Revolution is hardly a masterpiece, but it is at least readable and, on some levels, quite enjoyable. It's a rare series that spawns this kind of diametrically-opposed reaction, but maybe it isn't too surprising that a story about a boy who turns into a girl would be capable of a transformation of its own. | Jason Green

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