GAKUEN ALICE • Tachibana Higuchi • TOKYOPOP • 13+
Mikan, a plucky 10-year-old girl, runs away from home to find her super-genius friend Hotaru, who has moved to Tokyo to go to a mysterious elite school named Alice Academy. She soon discovers that everyone at the school is an “Alice” (psychic) with strange powers, and then she too is admitted to the school, where she must deal with scary tests, axe-wielding teddy bears and obnoxious boys. Taking for granted that “magic school” manga are by now a creaky, white-bearded old genre, Gakuen Alice has more good points than bad. (Technically, it’s a school for people with psychic powers, but Tokyopop’s ad copy describes it as “magical and mysterious,” and who am I to disagree?) The bad points include the stock shojo designs and character types–the loveably narcissistic teacher, the mean boy who technically is the love interest but who mostly just picks on our heroine (it’s because of their ages, explains Higuchi in her author’s notes — boys are nicer to girls after the boys hit puberty). However, there’s plenty of delightful scenes as well– Mikan’s friendship with Hotaru is a touching motivation for her character, and there are great gags, when the characters get to know Luca, a tough boy who has a soft spot for cute forest animals. Who would have thought that a few panels of a kid hugging horses and frolicking with bunny rabbits would justify a $9.99 manga purchase? It’s a familiar story, but with lots of cute touches and character-based moments. (NOTE: This review was originally printed in Otaku USA magazine.)
*** (three stars)
Today’s winner is Dallin E. of Utah! Congratulations, Dallin!
Ash B. found out about the 365 Days of Manga contest after reading my graphic novel with Victor Hao, King of RPGs. I’m glad you liked it, and I hope you like your manga — although I wish I had been able to send you more volumes of Mushishi, which is truly one of the best manga I’ve ever read. I hope you like the grab-bag of manga, I’ll send you something better for the second batch, which will be headed your way after the San Diego Comic-Con weekend!