Now that the final volume has come out, I’m catching up with the last half of the series. The more I read of Gatcha Gacha, the more I like it. It combines a certain gleeful trashiness with some affecting emotional moments. It also can occasionally be genuinely weird. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this series to someone who feels burnt-out on typical shoujo manga. I can’t imagine myself being so entertained by the worn out storyline of a character coming back from the dead with amnesia in any other series. Yuri and Yabe are dating, and he’s cleaned up his act by transforming into a proper looking Japanese boy. The blond hair is gone, as is the weedy looking goatee. While Yuri might be momentarily blissfully happy with her new love, trouble lurks on the horizon in the person of Kanako, a girl who looks just like Motoko’s deceased crazy sister. Yabe is shaken by his dead girlfriend’s doppelganger. Hirao watches this unfold from the sidelines, and while he’s still nursing feelings for Yuri he tells her that he’ll support her and Yabe however he can.
Kanako is of course Motoko’s sister, but her amnesia has left her unable to remember Yabe. Here is where Tachibana goes for the kill, because seeing Yabe’s conflicted expressions when he looks at her is just gut-wrenching. Kanako was farmed out to some distant relatives who have raised her as a foster daughter. The amnesia has caused her twisted personality to fade, leaving behind a rather sweet girl who still manages to be violent through subconscious reflex actions. Gatcha Gacha being Gatcha Gacha, issues between characters seem to be resolved through gang beat downs that lead to people talking about their feelings instead of non-violent confrontation. Kanako is kidnapped by a bunch of goons, and Motoko and Yabe go to rescue her. Yuri knows that as Yabe leaves, he’s also leaving her. She begs him not to go and he says “I know if I stayed and really learned to love you…I know I could finally be happy. But…I’m sorry. I’m not that good of a man.”
Tachibana does what few manga creators are capable of by making her main female character simultaneously an object of ridicule and sympathy for the reader. Yuri is left alone yet again, crying to the heavens “Will I ever be happy?” She’s absolutely silly and it is hard not to root for her to eventually be happy even though her basic personality is that of a happy cute puppy dog who keeps getting kicked around but still comes back for more.
Volume six starts with a return to the status quo. Kanako has regained her memory and is acting as crazily possessive of her sister and Yabe as ever. She starts to target Yuri but is warned off by Motoko in dramatic fashion. Hirao sees that Yuri may be losing her hair due to stress and he goes to extreme lengths to hide her tiny bald spot, running to a department store to buy a hairstick and devising a new hairstyle for her in an attempt to cover it up so Yuri and other people don’t know about it. He finally tells Yuri his feelings, and she begins to wonder if she can ever be attracted to him. He seems perfect, but she only feels any sort of chemistry with losers and jerks. Is the ultimate bad boy for Yuri actually Motoko? She continues to dress more masculine and rampages around like she always does. Yuri comments to Motoko that she’s physically incapable of being attracted to nice guys and says “What does it say about you that if you were a guy, I’d ask you out in a heartbeat?” Motoko’s face goes absolutely still and then she carries on the conversation with a smile.
The new, forthright Hirao might actually be enough of a loser to inspire feelings of attraction from Yuri when she finally spots him doing something loser-like. Hirao and Yabe begin to act a little more friendly towards each other. I’m not confident that a relationship between Yuri and Hirao will work out, but that’s the way things seem to be headed for now. Even though Gatcha Gacha is very much a shoujo series, Tachibana’s unique and darkly cynical sensibility makes it seem refreshing. With the two main female characters not being afraid to indulge in violence, it is actually fairly entertaining to see just Yuri slap Kanako across the face for being a brat, instead of slinking off to wallow in hurt feelings. When Tachibana’s characters do talk about their feelings, they are amazingly blunt and forthright. There are only two more volumes left for me to read, and I’m a little disappointed that Gatcha Gacha only lasted for eight volumes. I’m looking forward to the end, but I have no idea what to expect. With most shoujo series I pretty much know how the relationships will play out by the end. I’m really not sure what Tachibana is going to do next, and that’s a large part of Gatcha Gacha’s appeal.