Welcome to the Favorites Alphabet, where the Manga Bookshelf battle robot gaze upon our respective manga collections to pick a favorite title (or “titles,” if we really can’t pick just one) from each letter of the alphabet. We’re trying to stick with books that have been licensed and published in English, but we recognize that the alphabet is long, so we’re keeping a little wiggle room in reserve.
“G” is for…
GALS! | Mihona Fujii | CMX – At first glance, this tale of the loves of three “ko-gals” in the streets of downtown Shibuya may seem like nothing but a frothy yet shallow examination of clothes, guys and the longest legs you’ve seen this side of Revolutionary Girl Utena. But if you look deeper, you find a fantastic look at the head of a teenage girl determined to have as much fun as she can in her high school years without making sacrifices to her reputation or cutting corners. Ran Kotobuki is the child of a long line of police officers, and even though she insists she won’t follow in their footsteps, her sense of justice drives her to ensure that Shibuya is a safe haven. Ran’s enthusiasm is infectious, even if it’s often over the top, and the series is a fantastic one for young girls who want to live life to the fullest while still searching for a purpose in that life. (No surprises, Ran ends the series deciding to be a police officer.) – Sean Gaffney
Gatcha Gacha | Yutaka Tachibana | TOKYOPOP – I fell in love with this title from the moment it came out, mostly thanks to the interplay between its four leads. Supposedly a simple shôjo story of a girl who always tends to fall for bad boys and her unlikely friendship with a strong yet damaged classmate, Gatcha Gacha ends up being anything but simple, as you struggle to figure out which lies Motoko is telling are pure fiction and which are merely the truth; who’s still in love with whom; and of course whose attempted relationship will be the most twisted and horrible. Those hoping for typical shôjo romance will likely find this wanting, but for addictive crack with a kudzu plot, kickass heroines, and some great, snappy dialogue, it can’t be beat. – Sean Gaffney
Genshiken | By Kio Shimoku | Del Rey – The beauty of Genshiken is that the protagonists – a group of college-aged otaku who are members of possibly the least active club in all of manga – are neither repulsive nor saintly. It isn’t about the triumph of the underdog, and it isn’t about the ridicule of the socially maladroit. It’s about people finding their niche and living their lives on a very believable scale. It’s still funny, because Shimoku is honest enough to recognize that his cast’s individual obsessions can reach ridiculous levels. But that’s what otaku are about, and Shimoku doesn’t need to push anything to the point of being grotesque. He gives the reader permission to both like his characters and snicker at their weirder extremes, but the sum effect is fondness. The series also has one of the most restrained renderings of perverse, unlikely, perhaps partially requited love between two people who are simply not meant to be together that I’ve ever seen. And I have no resistance to that. – David Welsh
GoGo Monster | Taiyo Matsumoto | VIZ Media – Every elementary school has a kid like Yuki, a smart, odd student who says things that unsettle classmates and teachers alike. In Yuki’s case, it’s the matter-of-fact way he reports seeing monsters that leads to his social isolation. Newcomer Makoto doesn’t share Yuki’s vision, but he admires Yuki’s nonchalant attitude, and struggles mightily to understand what makes his friend tick. It’s to Taiyo Matsumoto’s credit that we’re never entirely sure what aspects of the story are intended to be real, and which ones might be unfolding in the characters’ heads; Yuki’s monsters remain largely unseen, though their presence is felt throughout the story. Matsumoto’s stark, primitive style suits the material perfectly, inoculating Gogo Monster against the sentimentality that imaginary friends and childhood fears inspire in so many authors. – Katherine Dacey
Gon | Masashi Tanaka | CMX, Kodansha – Ken Haley, my former PopCultureShock colleague, once likened Gon to Dennis the Menace, and I think the comparison is apt. Look past Gon’s teeth and claws, and you’ll see a pint-sized terror who, like Hank Ketcham’s famous creation, loves disrupting the natural order. Of course, Gon’s mischief is of a very different sort than Dennis’, as it involves swimming with sharks, stealing honey from a hive, and eating psychedelic mushrooms (to name just a few of Gon’s wordless exploits). No matter: the results are just as predictable, ruffling feathers (literally) and causing destruction. Masashi Tanaka’s intricate pen-and-ink illustrations make this far-fetched conceit work, infusing the stories with humor and pathos in equal measure. – Katherine Dacey
Goong: The Royal Palace | By Park SoHee | Yen Press – Though there are many fine manga beginning with the letter “G,” here my heart belongs completely to the Korean manhwa, Goong. Set in an alternate version of modern-day Korea with a monarchy still in place, Goong is a teen soap opera to die for, filled with compelling characters, emotionally-charged banter, royal politics, and pretty, pretty costumes. More than all of this, however, and despite a boatload of political machinations and misunderstandings, it features a romantic couple that is truly hindered by nothing more than themselves, and this is my very favorite kind of romance. It’s deliciously complicated, surprisingly funny, and really, truly addictive. I absolutely adore Goong. – Melinda Beasi
Goong: The Royal Palace | By Park SoHee | Yen Press – It’s something of a common theme in sunjeong manhwa to depict a romance between a spunky, common girl and an aloof, rich jerk. The jerk will, of course, be surprised that the girl dares to criticize him, but eventually come to realize that she understands him better than anyone else. I’ve read that story in various permutations several times now, but it’s at its most compelling in the pages of Goong, in which a regular girl named Chae-Kyung learns that she is engaged to the crown prince of Korea thanks to a pact made between their grandfathers. Neither is happy about the situation at first, and there is lots of bickering, but there are also moments of true connection between them that show their promise as a couple. Throw in some rivals, some political intrigue, and some truly unfortunate comic relief in the form of a pervy eunuch, and you’ve got the ingredients for major soapy goodness! Bonus points to Yen Press for switching to a two-in-one omnibus format for the series. – Michelle Smith
What starts with “G” in your favorites alphabet?