Gaba Kawa, Volume 1
written by Rie Takada
This manga’s title, which loosely translated means “so stubborn it’s cute,” tells a reader everything she needs to know. Gaba Kawa is so fluffy it almost floats off the page, and so persistently precocious it can hardly be resisted, buoyed as it is by Rie Takada’s over-the-top artwork and airy-fairy plotting. (One can almost imagine Takada dotting I’s with hearts or smiley faces.) Many of contemporary manga’s rougher, more provocative edges are sanded into submission in this childlike outing; Gaba Kawa is for younger readers, newbies to the medium.
Yet tame need not be a dirty word, for Gaba Kawa is rich with simple pleasures, telling the story of Rara, a demon who visits the human world in search of another legendary demon, but instead falls in love with Aku, a human baring the demon’s name. Rara swoons for the human’s charms, helpless as she falls in love with him, even as she realizes he is human. (That said, Aku has his own little hiccup: He sees dead people, natch.) Takada’s narrative finds a bit of dramatic tension in Rara’s dilemma: The more she falls in love and surrenders to her new love, the more vulnerable she becomes. Indeed, selflessness spells extinction for demons.
Still, Takada—who fared better with Punch and Happy Hustle High—is in a playful, willfully naïve mode here, less interested in plowing fresh dramatic terrain than in reveling in the rainbows-and-unicorns of young romance. Gaba Kawa’sstoryline—cute demon girl falls for hot human boy; Buffy-lite—is breezy, helium-filled, and almost entirely incidental to its celebration of giddy innocence and cutesy characterizations. Takada excels at finding the humor, broad as it is, in her spunky characters and their star-crossed attraction. (Romeo & Juliet this isn’t.) Rara is an adorable demon but completely inept at the dark arts, while handsome Aku’s ability to see ghosts is among his only distinct qualities.
For a quick fling, though, Gaba Kawa’spleasures are simple and undeniable, beautifully and cheerfully drawn, a story sweetly told, a comedy through and through, suitable for young readers and those who are young of heart.-- J. Rentilly