Shaenon takes a tour of two works by legendary mangaka Natsume Ono.
Reviewby Melissa Harper, Dec 1st 2006
Guru Guru Pon-chan
G. Novel 4-5
Ponta and Mirai are finally a couple, but they aren't in the clear yet. Mirai's ex-girlfriend is still interested in him. She's so sophisticated and cool, Ponta isn't sure she can compete, because she is a dog and doesn't understand so many things about human relationships. So, she runs away, thinking Mirai will be happier without her leaning on him. Meanwhile, they must also deal with Ponta in heat, Go's attraction to Ponta, and her sudden desire to have a baby!
How far can one really take the concept of a dog turning into a girl? The gimmick is getting a bit old in the fourth and fifth volumes of this award-winning manga by Satomi Ikezawa. The cuteness can only hold the story up so long before the problems of poor artwork, totally unrealistic characters, and bland storytelling start to shine through.
The artwork is really quite bad. Ponta's human form is drastically inconsistent from one panel to the next that one keeps looking at her, wondering who that is. It is a nice thought to change her hairstyle frequently, but if it can't be done and still have her look like Ponta, then maybe it shouldn't be attempted. Mirai is drawn consistently, but his look is so generic that his consistency doesn't matter. He is nearly a clone of the cool but caring star of several other manga, both by Ikezawa and by other artists. The quality in general is just poor. With the exception of a few panels that stand out for their detail and quality, the whole book has a sketchy, unfinished quality to it. Action is not very well represented, and facial expressions are far to extreme, giving the manga a bipolar feel.
All these complaints are more true for volume 4 than volume 5, which looks decent, a bizarre fact in itself. On the positive side, Ponta in dog form is always well drawn, and very cute, but that really isn't enough to hold up the visual integrity.
As far as the story goes, there are a few glaring problems. Ponta is obnoxious. She is so obnoxious that you just can't believe that cool, popular Mirai would put up with her. She sways back and forth between being sickeningly innocent to being ridiculously stupid, but in almost every instance she is unbearable. As for cool, popular Mirai, there isn't much in these two volumes to show that Mirai is anything other than Ponta's dog sitter. His patience is unlimited as far as Ponta is concerned.
In the fourth volume, Ponta has insecurity issues due to Mirai's ex-girlfriend. The problem here is that both these ladies are equally obnoxious in different ways. Hana is vulgar and pushy, but Ponta's obnoxiousness doesn't exactly shine in comparison. The redundancy of the story doesn't help it go down any easier. Why is there always and ex-girlfriend that shows up the minute a couple gets together? Of course, after seeing them together, Ponta gets the wrong idea, and runs away.
Volume five reads almost like a list someone made of funny situations a girl/dog could get into. “Ooh, what if she were in heat?” or “Ha, let's address breeding issues!” Those two discussions are really almost sickening. Mirai is afraid to get intimate with Ponta, because of breeding questions, and because he can't quite bring himself to have sex with a dog, even if she looks like a human. If that is the case, then the entire relationship seems a little suspect. But, that is only after the insane storyline where Ponta gets hit by a car. Her spirit visits Mirai, possesses his girlfriend so Ponta can tell him where her body is, then returns. When he finds her, he sticks the guru guru bone in her mouth, and she changes into a remarkably unhurt human Ponta. It is simply ludicrous.
There are some good points in the story, though. Ponta's reunion with her mother is sweet, and has some insight into what it is to be human, versus the feelings that a dog is limited to. Ponta could be conceived as cute in her innocence, making her a sympathetic character, and one has to admire Mirai's unfailing patience, if you can believe it. There is a lot of humor in the story, and dog Ponta is very adorable.
These volumes are pretty standard fare for romantic series of this nature, overall. The evolution of Ponta and Mirai's relationship is predictable, but if you are a fan of this couple from previous volumes, you'll want to keep track of that progression. Otherwise, there isn't much for new readers of the series to get excited about.
Overall : B-
Story : B
Art : C+
+ Cute dogs; interesting story.
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