Much like Hidamari Sketch upon it’s initial airing, GA is not being talked about by virtually anyone, and therefor it can be assumed isn’t being watched by virtually anyone (it’s not even in Nano‘s tag cloud), which is why I’m going to step up and cram it down your goddamn throats.
GA – Geijutsuka Art Design Class is a manga that had points in my book before I even opened the front page, because it’s by Satoko Kiyuzuki, author of the extremely unknown cult favorite manga Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro, whose American fanbase seems to largely consist of myself. Yen Press is publishing both of these manga alongside the likes of Hidamari Sketch and other 4-koma that are bought by ever-so-few of us it seems. Maybe it’s because the people who seem to read these things are all posting about them on Megatokyo forums instead of their fucking goddamn blogs. Show some love and spread the word, guys!
GA is a bit of an odd 4-koma even as it isn’t. It’s got 5 girl characters who are very cute (evidently, the manga was created when the magazine asked Kiyuzuki to “do a puni-moe manga”) and spend all of their time discussing random things in high school. However, in spite of the mostly average characters and environment, GA manages to be different from the other 4-koma moe rags because of it’s extremely heavy reliance on Art Class.
This is not the same art class in Hidamari Sketch, wherein art was just a backdrop for regular conversation or topics. In GA, art is the most important part of the story, perhaps even over the characters. At times, GA gets so on about art that it actually becomes more of an educational program on art than anything else. This seems to be the point, actually, as both the manga and anime begin with the explanation that they’ll be teaching you to do art. Most of the plots involve picking an art topic, and then bouncing the characters off of that topic by showing you how they respond to different projects and concepts.
So, the characters, taking the above image from left to right. I’ll note that the subs on the first episode of the anime translated the girl on the left with what the characters were saying, as if it was her name, however, Yen Press translates in the manga that everyone calls her ‘the professor’ (played by Kaori Nazuka – Eureka, Nunally Lenperouge). The Professor is best described as an enigma. She’s soft-spoken and straight-faced with a very dark atmosphere about her. She’s the type who you can’t read, and seems to know everything. She is always prepared, always knowledgeable, and is the kind of person you half-expect to materialize from nowhere at random. Kaori Nazuka does a perfect job in the anime of playing her rather unimposing voice without being too flat or monotone, which is important for scenes where she gives long explanations.
Next is Namiko Nozaki, quizzically played by Yui Horie (Manabi, Ayu – Kanon, Naru – Love Hina, Minori – Toradora) who had two characters that seemed far more up her alley coming up. Nozaki is the permanent tsukkomi of the series. After the first couple chapters of the manga, she seems to largely fade into the background, as she only really shows up for tsukkomi moments (this is probably good for Horie since she’s in like 6 shows at the moment, lol.)
Next we have Kisaragi Yamaguchi, who is more or less treated as the ‘main character’, though this story doesn’t ever really focus on one person more than the others. She’s best described as ‘meganekko dojikko’, the type to drift off thinking about cats, accidentally use the wrong paint or brush on the wrong parchment, etc. Not too bright, and largely looked after by the rest of the cast. When I heard Haruka Tomatsu‘s (Nagi – Kannagi), voice playing her, I at first thought it was Mamiko Noto doing one of her rare good jobs, since it has that same timid-to-death sound, but done without Noto’s annoyance.
Next is Miki Noda, who is really hyper and cute but totally childish. She doesn’t really fit into the ‘genki girl’ archetype so much, since while she’s hyper, she’s mostly so in a silly regard, and not in a high-octane regard. She’s often the life of the conversation or action in a joke, pushing it along with her cute facial expressions and somewhat dumb remarks. I’d like to think of her as a somewhat more talkative Tsukasa Hiiragi. She’s played by Ai Takunaga who seems to fit just perfectly fine, much like the rest of the cast, in spite of not being as experienced.
And finally, Tomokane, who is the resident tomboy, played by Miyuki Sawashiro (Maria – Zetsubou-sensei, Shinku – Rozen Maiden, Aruru, Shinkuro – Kurenai, I could go on). Tomokane is the epitome of a tomboy, being fairly masculine but also full of energy. She acts pretty chill usually, but when she gets into something then she goes totally overboard and gets too into it. I feel like I can hear her yelling ‘horahorahorahora!!!’
The GA manga is pretty good, but admittedly not excellent – it takes some time to find it’s rhythm and to really get a feel for it’s characters beyond the relatively technical art discussion stuff. It survives as much on the uniqueness of it’s discussions as anything else until it has time to strike any sort of bond with you. The anime, however, learns from the manga’s mistakes, and manages to turn it into something a grade or two better.
The GA anime moves really fast. Pacing-wise, it has more in common with Azumanga Daioh or even Pani Poni Dash than it does with Hidamari Sketch or other more slice-of-life oriented shows. This works really well for the show, as it has a constant energy that propels you through the episode. This is helped by an extremely energetic and very excellent soundtrack that really lays on the fun.
Perhaps the most helpful thing that comes from being in anime form is simply the fact that there is color. Being as art-heavy as GA is, color is an extremely welcome addition to the foundations, and really brings everything in the show to life.
Perhaps the true driving force at work here, though, is spectacular directing, which is what I suppose it takes to accomplish the above things, anyway. The show has carefully crafted comedic timing and very spastic imagery that, while not as random and strange as a Shinbo work, is still very unique and attention-grabbing. It’s no surprise, either, with the show being directed by Hiroaki Sakurai, director of the insane GAR-fast Cromartie High School as well as the insane moe-fest Di Gi Charat, not to mention classically awesome 90s comedy Kodocha. Sakurai knows how to do comedy, and he REALLY knows how to do it on a low budget, as he uses said lack of budget to his advantage both in Cromartie and GA. He seems to be having a lot of fun with getting to work with a somewhat unique series like GA, so hopefully he continues to have fun with it.
GA is very worth watching, whether your a fan of slice-of-life or comedy or just fun and creative shows. I want this show to have an audience, and I definitely want to see it get fully subbed, since the last thing we need is another case like Hidamari Sketch where the show is just finishing up 6 months goddamn later.