GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class is a yonkoma (4 panel) manga that follows five friends–Kisaragi, Miki, Namiko, Tomokane, and Miyabi–during their days in a high school art department. Each strip collected in this volume captures a different moment in the girls’ lives, from the frantic rush to complete an assignment to not-so-peaceful lunches in the cafeteria.In the interest of full disclosure, I should begin by noting that I generally avoid picking up yonkoma series, as I mostly read manga for the rich character and plot development made possible by the multi-page chapters of lengthy serialized stories. Yonkoma obviously can’t tell those kinds of stories, and in general their individual strips tend to rely heavily on one-note gags. Such gags can certainly be very funny, occasionally even sublime, but they usually aren’t enough to inspire love in this particular reader.
So I was a bit surprised by how much I enjoyed the strips collected in this first volume of GA. This is not to say that GA is by any stretch of the imagination a ground-breaking work: the character moments it captures are mostly small ones, and the five girls are straight out of central casting. But at its best GA is zany, even a little charming, and is good for more than its fair share of laughs.
The Yen Press edition of this series features color pages scattered throughout the book, not just at the front. The color pages are a particular treat here because so many of the strips feature mini-art lessons about color (though a cheerful author’s note does warn readers not to place too much trust in the art information contained within). There are also several pages of detailed notes at the end of the book regarding cultural and artistic references in the volume. Much of humor of the book is very culturally-specific, and readers without some basic knowledge of Japanese culture may weary of flipping to the back to make sense of every other joke.
In conclusion, GA may be disposable entertainment, but it’s still well worth reading. Fans of other yonkoma, like Shoulder-A-Coffin Kuro (by the same creator) or Azumanga Daioh, should definitely investigate it, and it may also appeal to fans of school stories or readers with a particular interest in art.
Review copy provided by Yen Press.