So I'm back in school and near two different library systems now that, while they do have manga, after using browsing them almost weekly for three years don't have much I haven't already looked at. Thankfully they still have some things (such as last week's Wandering Son) and I've also moved in with some other nerdy people who are happy to let me read the comics they brought. So that's how I came across the first two volumes in this series, it's one I've been curious about for a while (and browsed a little in bookstores) but since 4-koma style comics aren't usually my thing I hadn't gone out and bought any of them. So, have I finally found a 4-koma comic I like or is it a good thing I didn't buy them after all?
GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class by Satoko Kiyuduki
Summary: This series follows five girls at the GA School of Design as they navigate art classes, do weird things, and generally have a good time.
The Good: This story is less "cute girls doing cute things" and more of "art students do weird things" which I think makes it much more interesting. Sure some of the characters do sterotypically "cute" things, but then they grab the strangest food they can for a hotpot, grab pieces to eat with their eyes closed, and then draw an image to represent their mood about what they just ate, while amusing "cute" isn't the first word I'd use to describe that. I was also surprised at how, while every strip has a punchline, most of them are part of a series all leading up to a larger joke*. The characters also got a bit more fleshed out than I was expecting, it still wasn't a lot (is it just me or do comedies rarely fully flesh out their characters?) but it was nice to have some insight into some of them and it all fit in rather well.
The Bad: The second volume introduces a new group of characters (in addition the original cast) and I'd love to see the two groups interact more since they're both rather amusing (so yes, I do like them, I'd just like them to be a little more connected). Other than that, I suspect that some of the humor will make more sense if you have some experience with art although honestly I can see people who don't know much about art at all enjoying it anyway. There really isn't a lot here that I didn't like, I did have a bit of a hard time getting into it at first (probably because I was reading in small chunks and, while I think it reads better in chunks, I was just reading too little at a time to settle in) but I thought it was a really funny and surprisingly well put together comic.
The Art: The art is on the simple side (not surprising considering how small the panels for 4-koma comics are)but it's not bad and it's far from being a collection of talking heads. I like that Yen Press went ahead and put a number of the pages in color (it would have been odd to read a page about the properties of say the color green and have everything printed in black and white) although I suspect this is why the book costs more despite the fact that it's only 120 pages, not the usual 180 (the book is also a little larger which might have also contributed to the costs but regardless it's a good size). Sometimes the panels do feel too busy and cluttered but by and large they worked fine.
Now, would I buy this? I'm not sure, I'd like to read more (YP has two more volumes out, no idea if it's still running in Japan) but it is a bit pricey considering the volumes are smaller and I don't feel like rereading it anytime soon (although I think a number of my friends would get a kick out of it). So I suppose if I feel like rereading them, and have some extra money, I'll pick them all up but for the moment I'm fine not having my own copies.
*so while both newspaper comics and some webcomics are also comedies told in strip form they're actually a bit different from 4-koma which, unless I'm mistaken, is released in chapters, not individual strips, so there's a lot more continuity between individual strips. My observation anyway.