Guru Guru Pon-Chan Vol. 5 (Del Rey)

You've never seen a boy-and-his-dog story like Guru Guru Pon-Chan, the new romantic comedy from the creator of Othello.

 

(Del Rey; 186 pgs B&W; $10.95)

(W/A: Satomi Ikezawa)

You've never seen a boy-and-his-dog story quite like this one. Ponta is a precocious little puppy, but she's no ordinary mutt: thanks to the Guru Guru bone invented by her "grandfather," she can change from a dog to a cute as a button teenage girl. In her human guise, she falls for Mirai, the dreamy human guy next door and begins attending school with her new boyfriend. Mirai knows her secret, but he finds himself falling in love with her regardless. Meanwhile, Mirai's classmate Go, who also knows Ponta's true form, is under her spell as well and doing his best to steal her away.

On the surface, the premise of Guru Guru Pon-Chan is downright disturbing (two guys in love with a dog? Um, ew…), but if you can ignore the undercurrent of creepy-ness, you'll find that this is a darling, sweet, and deeply enjoyable romantic comedy. (The following contains spoilers for Vol. 4 of Pon-Chan that are revealed on the very first page of Vol. 5, but if you don't want to know skip to the next paragraph…I won't mind. Really.) The book's fifth volume starts waist-deep in drama, with Pon-Chan, as a canine, lying half-dead on the side of the road b after being hit by a car. Her spirit leaves her body, traveling across town to find her beloved Mirai and find help. When the couple is finally united, the tears flow freely as they fall into each other's arms. The scene could be melodramatic, but it's not; it's sweet, it's romantic, and it's positively heartwarming.

From there, the book turns toward wacky comedy, playing Ponta's lack of knowledge in the ways of the human world for laughs. Easily the funniest is the second chapter, which finds Ponta in heat, leaving Mirai flustered as he tries to fend off her advances-an especially bad situation since she doesn't know what she's advancing toward. Creator Satomi Ikezawa, best known for the series Othello, has crafted an undeniably loveable protagonist. The worlds of dog and man collide in Ponta's every move, and she approaches each new experience with dog-like eagerness and childlike naiveté. Ikezawa's Ponta is cuteness personified, her wide-eyed expression belying her desperate want to learn the ways of the human world, while the other characters are drawn plainly, giving Ponta a special air that makes it clear, even without knowing her secret, that there's something special and different about her.

The idea of a girl transforming into a dog and falling for a human is one that could be executed in any number of horrifyingly bad ways: go too far in one direction and you've got a saccharine-sweet, sappy mess; go too far in the other and you've got distasteful bestiality overtones. Luckily, Ikezawa hits all the right notes. Guru Guru Pon-Chan Vol. 5 is alternately laugh-out-loud funny and teeth rottening-ly sweet, a romantic comedy far better than a one-sentence summary would ever let you believe.

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