Guru Guru Pon-Chan
Volume 8

Author: Satomi Ikezawa
Artist: Satomi Ikezawa
RRP: £5.99, US $10.95
ISBN: 978 0 099 50653 9
Ages: 13+
Available 03 May 2007

Ponta is a young, healthy and perfectly normal Labrador, that is until she is given the magic Guru Guru bone, which enables her to change into a beautiful young woman. As a woman Ponta has fallen in love with the boy next door Mirai Iwaki. After some considerable soul searching and reticence, Mirai realises that he too is developing feelings for the human Ponta. The path of true love, even one as unconventional as theirs, is never smooth and just as the two declare their love for each other Mirai's ex-girlfriend arrives on the scene, as does a male dog who takes a shine to Ponta...

Guru Guru Pon-Chan, by Satomi Ikezawa won the Kodansha Manga of the Year Award. One of the nice things about Volume Eight is that, even if you have joined the story at this point, Satomi has been thoughtful enough to include a précis of the plot as well as a few portraits. Another nice feature is the layout of the panel, most of which are spread horizontally across the whole page, this mean that if you find multi-panel mangas hard to follow then this one will be a cinch, making the story very easy to read.

The book is broken down into four stories, with only the last one advancing the plot. For the most part Ikezawa has used the opportunity to show how the relationship between Ponta and Mirai Waki develops.

Before anyone gets too freaked at the strange relationship of one man and his dog, let me put it into some cultural framework. Japan has been quite a rigid society from its feudal age to quite recently. The changing roles within society have been reflected in popular culture, usually as various forms of transformation. This transformation is usually associated with preteen, or young teen girls, not for the sexual connotations, which this group may have to a western audience, but because to the Japanese these represent those with the greatest ability to experience change.

The stories in the book kind of feel like Ikezawa wanted to get her last few shorts out of the way before concluding the story of Ponta and Mirai. The first story (Mirai-Kun is Mirai-Kun) is about Mirai playing a practical joke on Ponta, which of course Ponta does not understand as she is a dog. She gets her own back by using the bone to turn him from human into a dog. The second story (Looking For Him) is a tale about Ponta, when she was much younger, and how she and a young girl got lost in the city together. The third story (Someday, I will too) is the weakest story in the collection.

Now before we discuss the last story (The Sleeping Dog Beauty) look away if you don't want to read a major spoiler. Done that?... No?... Well here we go.

The last story is a real kick in the pants; most, if not all, of the previous stories have been about Ponta turning from a dog to a human without ever asking if there was a price for this miracle. In the last story you find out that the cost is Ponta's increased ageing, increased enough to threaten her life. Worse still the preview of Volume Nine seems to show that Ponta succumbs to her ailments (well she is in a coffin and I don't think you can succumb more than that). So this light-hearted tale may have a tragic ending.

Overall, if you take it on face value Guru Guru Pon-Chan is not a bad manga, though I'm not really sure how many teen boys will be reading this love story.

Charles Packer

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