Guru Guru Pon-Chan Vol. 6 (Del Rey)

ponchanDespite a highly enjoyable effort last time out, the latest volume of this boy-meets-pooch romance really goes to the dogs.




186 pgs B&W; $10.95

(W/A: Satomi Ikezawa)

[Click here to read the PLAYBACK:stl review of Guru Guru Pon-Chan Vol. 5]


Ponta is a dog who can turn into a human girl. She's in love with Mirai, the handsome stud next door, and he loves her back in spite of her secret. The fifth volume of Guru Guru Pon-Chan took a difficult concept and accomplished wonders with it, crafting a sweet, enjoyable romantic comedy with the gorgeous, dewy-eyed shojo art that made Satomi Ikezawa's Othello a rousing success. Volume 6 starts off on the same high quality track, but unfortunately the story that takes up the bulk of this new collection tries its hardest to remind you over and over that you're reading a book that romanticizes the unsettling.


The latest collection of this boy-meets-dog tale (no pun intended) kicks off with a manga staple, a visit to the summer festival, which Ponta attacks with such exuberance that you can practically see her tail wagging even in her human form. Her curiosity and appetite get the better of her, however, and she soon runs afoul of some yakuza thugs, forcing her to go into guard dog mode to protect her beloved Mirai-kun. It's fluff, sure, but it's enjoyable fluff, and a nice addendum to the trajectory the book was on in volume 5.


The next day, Ponta is taking a nice, playful puppy bath when she decides to give the Guru Guru Bone-the device that allows her to transform into a human-a good scrubbing as well. She and Mirai are horrified to discover that for the time being she's stuck as a dog. In a plot contrivance so out-of-nowhere you'll be smacking your forehead in disbelief, the pair head off to a mountain resort where Ponta literally runs into the black lab gang and his gorgeous owner Aoka Mizushima. The reader is allowed into the canine conversation, where we learn that Gang has a thing for Ponta; as they cavort aroud a lush green field, Mirai is envious, yet he feels strangely at peace with the demure Aoka by his side.


The caption here pretty much says it all...It's here that the pull of the book completely falls apart as the reader is reminded, time and time again, that you're being asked to root for a man to fall in love with a dog while you're presented with a preferable mate for both of them. Your nature pulls you to root for one couple while the story's momentum is trying to push you toward the opposite outcome, and the result is you're torn right out of the story. Ikezawa's writing in these chapters becomes more heavy-handed and does little to help her reach her goal; the green-eyed monster rears up in Ponta, but it feels less like a jealous lover and more like a jealous pet who wants to keep her owner all to herself. Ponta and Mirai manage to escape before things get too dire, but if the preview of volume 7 is any indication, the book may continue heading in this frustratingly wrong direction.


Romantic comedies with a transforming participant are a manga mainstay. In Rumiko Takahashi's brilliant Ranma ½, for example, you have a male hero who transforms into a girl yet is in love with a girl, and you root for them to get together because their basic natures make them belong together; you root for them in spite of the transformation. In Guru Guru Pon-Chan, you're being asked to root for them because of their transformation, as if the fact that this dog is now a cute human girl means she should be with a cute human boy. Ikezawa is a skillful storyteller and at times, like in much of volume 5 or the sweet rainy day side story that wraps up this volume, she pulls it off wonderfully. When she slips up and you're reminded of the story's bestiality undertones, as happens repeatedly in this latest volume, it's a pretty big pill to swallow.

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