Gacha Gacha Vol. 5 (Del Rey)

Freud would have a field day with Gacha Gacha, the tale of boy-meets-girl…and her multiple personalities. Del Rey; 202 pgs B&W; $10.95
(W/A: Hiroyuki Tamakoshi)

Kurara and her multiple personalities have a swimsuit party on the cover of Gacha Gacha Vol. 5 by Hiroyuki TamakoshiMany a young man might joke that his girlfriend sometimes seems like a different person, but likely they can't say so with as much authority as Kouhei, the romantic lead of Hiroyuki Tamakoshi's Gacha Gacha. Kouhei's in love with Kurara, his cute-as-a-button childhood friend who takes a vacation to Hawaii and comes back with the characters from a virtual reality video game rattling around her head as multiple personalities that take over her body at all the wrong times. Though Kurara has feelings for Kouhei, she hides them behind childish hostility while her new personalities are much more forward about their feelings, leaving poor Kouhei to fend off their advances as he tries to break through to the real girl underneath that he really wants.

In this, the final volume of the first Gacha Gacha series, the romantic entanglements take center stage. After wrapping up the storyline featuring Ayame (Kurara's ninja-girl personality) from the previous volume, the central conflict revs up as Kurara and Kiriko, her most insistent personality, vie for Kouhei's heart. Kiriko and Kurara are alike in many ways, but they differ in one very important one: where Kurara masks her true feelings, Kiriko is not only sweet and kind to Kouhei but also more than willing to let him know how much she loves him. But when the real Kurara regains control right after Kouhei has a romantic date with her other half,  she runs through a series of adorable failed attempts to outdo her rival, revealing how perfect Kurara and the equally reluctant Kouhei really are for each other. And of course, this being the final volume, the book wraps with a massive battle for the fate of Kurara's fragile psyche, as Kouhei must enter the virtual world to wrest control from "01," a new, super-powerful personality who's a dead ringer for the real Kurara but refuses to let her come to the surface.

Kouhei enjoys the bento lunch he gets from Kiriko in this interior art from Gacha Gacha Vol. 5; Kurara is less than impressed. Click for full-sized image.The idea behind Gacha Gacha is an interesting one, turning the traditional manga romance on its head by having two suitors be different facets of the same person, mashing the traditional harem comedy in with the classic Superman-Lois Lane-Clark Kent-styled love triangle. In this case, however, Kouhei knows that Kurara and Kiriko are one and the same, but that doesn't make his life any easier. When writer/artist Tamakoshi concentrates on this part of the story, Gacha Gacha is an interesting, addictive read. When other personalities come forth, as they do often in this volume, it completely draws the reader out of the series' central drama. One personality in particular, Ranran, appears from out of nowhere halfway through the book, drinks an ungodly amount of saké, then disappears with seemingly no purpose, bringing the story's forward momentum to a screeching halt. The ending of the book wraps up the romantic entanglements very satisfactorily, but then a final twist is thrown in as a tease to the upcoming sequel Gacha Gacha: The Next Revolution that feels random and tacked on.

Even when the book misfires, it is, fortunately, still great to look at, as Tamakoshi (best known as the artist for the sexy romantic comedy Boys Be… from Toykopop) is the perfect artist for a book like this. His women are cute or sexy as their personality dictates, and Kurara's constant fluctuations from content to hostile to flustered are captured by Tamakoshi's expressive faces. While not a perfect book, Gacha Gacha Vol. 5 is intermittently enjoyable when it concentrates more on the romance and less on its high concept.

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