Marii Taiyou’s playfully sexy Gal Gohan could likely have continued to sustain itself purely on the dynamic between its main heroine Miku Okazaki and the object of her affections, teacher Shinji Yabe — but it’s perhaps for the best that the second volume introduced an interesting new element of conflict to the mix in its final moments.
Specifically, it brings in school council member Koharu Fujiwara, who initially provides the obligatory high-school manga element of “the school council are going to shut your club down if you don’t start behaving”, but subsequently becomes a regular cast member pretty much within the space of a single chapter.
Up until now, so far as the girls in the series are concerned, our attention has primarily been on Miku, with occasional guest appearances from her friends Makoto and Hana. But with Fujiwara’s introduction, it becomes abundantly clear that author and writer Taiyou is not only obsessed with “gals” specifically — she also has a wonderful appreciation of what makes an intensely attractive female character.
Fujiwara might not initially appear to be particularly “sexy”; she doesn’t show skin in the same way Miku does, she doesn’t have particularly noticeable breasts and she doesn’t make a habit of flashing her lingerie. There is, of course, the simple appeal of the stern student council representative, which a lot of people are into — but far more striking than any of that is how Taiyou represents Fujiwara’s eyes.
Taiyou clearly pays particular attention to eyes in Gal Gohan — Miku’s friend Hana has particularly noticeable pale-coloured eyes, for example, which is a strong contrast to most of the other characters — but there’s something incredibly piercing, compelling and, yes, sexy about the way Fujiwara looks at the reader, and by extension Yabe.
Part of it is likely down to how Fujiwara somewhat subverts the tropes of the stern student council representative by often showing a shy, blushing side — though this isn’t, in itself, particularly unusual these days. A significant part of why she is such a striking character comes down to the fact that Taiyou has a habit of presenting close-up views of her face, highlighting the subtle changes in her expression and emphasising the meaning within them — as well as tiny details such as the beauty spot under her left eye.
In contrast to Miku’s exaggerated personality, Fujiwara displays much more subtle changes in how she represents her emotions and thoughts on her face — and as such, by viewing them up close, our time with her feels oddly intimate in a rather different way to the sexually provocative nature of Miku. While Miku is all about panty flashes, visible cleavage and inappropriate bodily contact, Fujiwara is all about meaningful glances and occasional smiles that will send the most pleasurable of shivers down one’s spine.
This, of course, raises some interesting questions about the narrative of Gal Gohan. Up until now, most readers will likely have been rooting for Yabe and Miku, despite the inappropriate and taboo nature of any potential relationship they might engage in if they take things further than they currently stand. But with the introduction of Fujiwara — and her immediate chemistry with Yabe — it’s not at all unreasonable to start pondering the wisdom of that.
Yabe and Miku are distinctly “opposite” in nature, after all; Miku is a loud, brash, fashionable gal who is highly expressive and unabashed about her sex appeal, while Yabe is a quiet, unassuming teacher who mostly seems to be somewhat swept along by the energy of the situations in which he finds himself. At first glance, Fujiwara and Yabe would seem to be a much more appropriate match for one another — but then, of course, as the saying goes, it ain’t fiction, just a natural fact, we come together ‘cuz opposites attract.
A fun aspect of Gal Gohan on the whole is how all the characters — but Miku in particular — continually receive conflicting advice on how best they should proceed with the situation. Some characters are seemingly keen to cheer on any sort of potential relationship between Yabe and Miku, while others are quick to remind them that a student-teacher relationship is indeed taboo, and should be avoided at all costs.
An especially fun part of Gal Gohan’s third volume comes when Miku meets up with her senpai Maki, who has maintained certain aspects of the “gal” style to herself, but who carries herself with an indisputable maturity that clearly sets itself apart from Miku. That said, Maki almost immediately reveals herself to be anything but infallible by catching her skirt on her bag and displaying her ass and sexy panties to the world — though we also learn where Miku gets her complete lack of shame from, since Maki demonstrates absolutely no sense of embarrassment whatsoever, even going so far as to explain that the panties were her boyfriend’s choice.
What’s interesting about the encounter between Miku and Maki is that the former causes the latter to think about the situation in a way she claims not to have considered before: the fact that her behaviour is more indicative of genuinely being in love with Yabe rather than simply having a crush.
Of course, our experience with Miku up until this point means that we’re probably well ahead of her in realising this, but hearing it from her senpai appears to give her a moment of clarity. And Maki is one of the few people who unconditionally encourages her to pursue her dreams — although Miku does conveniently and conspicuously leave out the fact that the object of her affections is a teacher.
“Someone that perpetually cool can smile like that when she’s in love,” Miku ponders to herself after the pair say farewell to one another after their day together. “It really got to me.”
From hereon, we see a subtle but nonetheless noticeable change in Miku. Almost immediately we witness her starting to say things that are sweet rather than sexually provocative, and it’s obvious that she wants to make this work. Yabe, meanwhile, despite mostly appearing oblivious to Miku’s affections — although there are numerous scenes where he demonstrates momentary embarrassment and appears to know exactly what the situation is — also starts to act a little differently. He questions the way he speaks to Miku, often wondering if he’s being too harsh in shooting down her advances, and actually finds himself missing her when she doesn’t show up at times he expects to see her.
Amid all this, of course, Fujiwara keeps showing up and making things even more complicated. The relationship dynamic is a little different here, though; while Fujiwara is rather more subtle about her growing feelings for Yabe — and often tries to deny them to herself — Yabe’s treatment of her is much more as one might expect given the status and age difference between them. He praises her for doing a good job, calls her “young lady” and even gives her a pat on the head on several occasions — though, of course, none of this helps her quell the fire of romance that has been lit within her heart.
In fact, in some respects one could argue that, despite her protestations that she doesn’t want to be treated like a child — which is what Yabe is essentially doing — she really does. Her position on the school council along with her position of responsibility in her family taking care of her brothers means that she doesn’t get a lot of opportunity to “be young”, and the time she spends with Shinji, whether it’s participating in the cooking club or simply being praised by him for a job well done, allows her a momentary escape from what appears to have been a life of enforced maturity.
The climax of the third volume of Gal Gohan is a Halloween-themed scene where Miku ends up kissing Yabe on the cheek. This, of course, marks a significant line being crossed — but the whole thing marks an important turning point for Miku. She has done something that she absolutely cannot take back — and from here she needs to decide how she is going to live with that. Plus, of course, Yabe has to determine how he is going to live with it, too.
But that’s a story for the next volume, of course!
Gal Gohan vol. 3’s paperback release appears to have become oddly hard to find at the time of writing, but links to a variety of retailers and digital versions can be found on Seven Seas’ website.
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