Secret Santa Review: GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class

Source: pixiv
Source: pixiv

Having spent the majority of my anime fandom fully absorbed into the “moe slice of life” show, I’ve actually found it quite difficult to find some sort of framework in which to judge its merits. I mean, there is certainly a formula at work when it comes to being able to, as an industry, package and repackage the same repeated elements and expect it to sell to a hungry audience that craves its periodic dosage of cute girls doing cute things. That may be the overlying philosophy behind development and design of a SoL series, which may be tiresome to those who either try to find meaning in a purportedly meaningless genre or those who have simply watched way too much of it, but sometimes it’s through an off-beaten path and approach that makes a show tick. Of course, such things may come off as gimmicks, but what GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class brings to the table of this highly saturated (yet still disturbingly profitable) market is something completely fresh, despite having the same overall premise as other “art school sketch shows.” Thanks to the Reverse Thieves “Secret Santa” review event, I’ve had the pleasure of watching this particular show, and despite having only finished the series a few minutes ago (hooray for procrastination!), I am quite thrilled to talk about it. So let’s talk a little bit about the show, and why I just loved it so much. Unfortunately, there are only so many words that I can afford to give such praise!

Hardly anyone I know on twitter talk about this show anymore, and it’s kind of a shame. It’s about a group of freshman high school students who attend a highly specialized art program, and the show essentially follows their day-to-day lives in school. That premise by itself is probably something to scoff at, but underneath its familiar exterior is actually a lively discourse about the mediums through which they work. On top of that, the personalities of the main characters, despite being noticeably cookie-cutter to your typical cast of moeblob characters, interestingly serve as different lenses through which art is viewed and discussed. Take Noda, the overly energetic fashionista of the group. She’s very knowledgeable about certain areas of art (especially fashion design), but often finds herself lacking in talent, and through this, she tends to point out informative aspects of a subject, even though she can’t really follow-up on that particular amount of knowledge that she has. Unlike her, the main character, the shy glasses-girl Kisaragi, acts like an audience surrogate, taking in information, and building upon ideas based on talent and curiosity alone.

Having a primary cast of characters that is decidedly balanced in their discussion about art allows for some really interesting opportunities to approach different subjects. In one particular episode, they discuss surrealism in art, and the entire bit is depicted through a series of dreams. The viewpoint character Kisaragi, falls asleep in the middle of said discussion, and has a bunch of very seemingly random dreams, but the imagery was calculatedly surrealistic. One would think that this connection was enough to establish the approach in which the discussion would develop, but instead, the dreams just simply continue in a “always waking up into a dream” sort of feedback loop, with each layer more evocative in its imagery than the last, almost like Inception, but replacing philosophical undertones with that of art criticism. That said, no particular discussion of surrealism actually occurs throughout the dream sequences other than the repeated initial lines that introduce the topic when Kisaragi “wakes up” from her dream. She finally wakes up from her subconscious travels, and when posed with the question of surrealism, she simply explains, “Well, I suppose, it might be something like painting the world of your dreams.” Undoubtedly, this sequence was my favourite part of the show, and serves as the best example of GA is about.

Having for the most part marathoned the entirety of this series within a 24 hour time span, perhaps my impression of the show would be different from those who took their time in savoring the moments that this show provided. I kinda fell as if this sort of show would be best taken in small, regular doses, to coincide with a type of pacing that allows the audience to take in the particular “lesson of the day.” This would result in a more complete, meaningful experience of taking in this series in comparison to others in the genre. One benefit from it in the same way that one would watch, say, an Aria, at a much, much slower pace than usual. There probably lies a particular spectrum of pacing for different shows in the genre, with a high-energy show like Yuru yuri at one end, and a very airy, iyashikei-like show like Aria at the opposite. Somewhere, in the middle lies GA, whose unique approach and lively characters make the the show very easy and enjoyableto watch, but contains a lot of substance that requires some amount of reflection to fully appreciate. Ultimately, this show is definitely a keeper, eight charcoal pencils out of ten.

Thanks for the recommendation, Naz!

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  1. I loved the manga version of GA, and I didn’t know they had an anime out. I’m totally watching it! The reason I love GA is because it’s funny, entertaining, and includes my favorite school subject of all, art!

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