While most manga are written in chapter format, that does not mean the comic strip is unknown to Japanese artists. Known as 4-Koma manga, four-panel comic strips aren’t nearly as widespread as their long-format counterparts, but they are no less entertaining.
One of the few 4-Koma titles translated to English is GA: Geijutsuka Art Design, a lighthearted series centered around five art students. Yen Press has recently released Volume 4 and you can read on for the review.
Back Cover Blurb
It’s time once again for art school, full of the spirit, love, and laughter of youth! Kisaragi and the GA girls return to class, shifting their focus to the history of Western fashion and textiles. But as with every serious art lesson in this department, crazy antics (not to mention a game of dress-up and a food fight) are never far off! And when the GA welcomes a new face – a transfer student from France – will the department’s regulars scare off the new girl and make her hightail it back to her homeland?!
The cover touts this volume as “GA History of Fashion,” and indeed there are five installments of “Fashion Lore,” color pages that provide a mini-history of Western clothes. It’s fun to see the characters in different outfits as they explain the designs of various eras, and the Professor looks absolutely exquisite in ancient Greek dress. They also cross-reference the Western styles with their contemporaries from Japan and other lands, and unless you’re well read on worldwide clothing terminology, you’ll find yourself flipping to the notes to figure out what they are.
For those who enjoy a bit of dress-up, you’ll also get to see the GA girls in Halloweenish costumes when Sasamoto-sensei has his class undergo a modeling/sketching exercise. The front cover is actually a color illustration of the GA girls in the outfits from that segment. Kiyuduki-sensei also takes the opportunity to show several other classmates in costume, and this arc includes two color pages.
If you’re still hungry for fashion, there’s yet another fashion-themed arc towards the end of the book. Instead of the Japanese GA girls exploring Western fashion, it’s a Western (French) exchange student, Marianne Van Tienen, learning about the Japanese yukata in textile class. The girls turn it into an interesting discussion on fashion, trends, and Western-Japanese fusion. However, you will need the translation notes as the girls use several Japanese terms in their jokes, one of which is a kanji pun.
As for the remainder of the book, it’s a mixed bag of general school silliness with various brief arcs focused on the Art Design Club, the GA third years, and even the teachers. There are four pages of translation notes, and yes, you will need them. For the most part, the explanations allow you to get the point of the narrative, but there were a few van Gogh jokes in the Uozumi-kun colorblind arc that I didn’t quite understand even with the notes. On the other hand, Noda’s adventures with the lost and found box, which was one of the more creative arcs, was laugh out loud funny thanks to Kiyuduki-sensei’s visuals of art tools wreaking havoc on the comic strip.
The GA girls maintain their usual brand of silly classroom humor, this time with a fashion twist. For those who like learning about the history of clothes or seeing characters in different outfits, this is the copy to pick up. But be warned. Though the visuals are consistently cute, full understanding of the comic strips requires flipping to the translation notes as the topics range everywhere from Japanese ukiyo-e art to tetrachromacy to silver electroplating.
First published at the Fandom Post.