Originally posted: Monday, August 4, 2008 on Blogger

An enjoyable new series that I got into through the anime. I will try to make the summary as short as possible, since I have an issue with keeping my summaries short. ^^;;

Summary


Gakuen Alice stars the perky and spunky Mikan Sakura, who runs away to Tokyo when her best friend, Hotaru does not keep up with her correspondence. Hotaru, who was always a bit strange, had been scouted by Alice Academy, a school for elite geniuses, but as she leaves, she promises to write and visit Mikan. However, after 6 months and only a single postcard, Mikan believes her best friend has all but forgotten her, that is until she hears a conversation between Hotaru’s mother and the principle of her school. It turns out Gakuen Alice (translated as Alice Academy) isn’t what it seems, and Hotaru has a difficult time contacting those outside the school. Mikan is now determined to find this school and talk to Hotaru no matter what.

So she leaves a note for her grandfather and boards a train to Tokyo, and eventually makes it to the school, only to be turned away. Unluckily for her, two men see her trying to get in and convince her that their cram school will get her in (this is of course a scam). A very flamboyant passerby comes to her rescue, and introduces himself as Narumi, a teacher at Gakuen Alice. Mikan’s unique reaction to his Alice sparks his interest, and he invites the young girl to come to Gakuen Alice. But before they can make their way to the school, the wall beside them explodes and a boy wearing a black cat mask comes forth. Narumi tells Mikan that this is a high level alice genius, Natsume Hyuga, and his alice is fire. After a small skirmish, Narumi takes the unconscious Natsume and leads Mikan into the bizarre school. Once inside, he leaves Mikan with Natsume, in order to report her entrance into the academy. Another teacher comes in later, and Mikan asks him about Narumi and the treatment that Natsume received. The teacher reassures her that Narumi is a good person and he only did that to protect Natsume from an even more severe punishment. As he runs off on an emergency, he tells Mikan to push the big button in case Natsume wakes up.

Mikan checks to see if Natsume is awake, but it appears he is asleep, and when she lets her guard down, the boy pulls on her hair and begins to threaten her. Meanwhile, the teacher who left Mikan notices a giant eagle flying in the direction of Natsume, and quickly begins to run back. This eagle carries another boy who comes to Natsume’s rescue. When the teachers arrive, he and Natsume head out, but not before Natsume devastates Mikan by showing off her panties and calling her “polka-dot panties”. How he managed to pull them off is another mystery….

Narumi calms the crying Mikan by showing her, her new school uniform. However, Mikan has not yet been accepted into the school, she must pass a little test first; that test is to make friends with everyone in her class within a week. Mikan is overjoyed because it sounds easy, but when she sees the class, she realizes just how hard it really will be. And to make matters worse, Hotaru tells Mikan to pretend they don’t know each other inside the class room.

After Mikan sees Natsume and calls him a pervert and molester, the whole class turn against her and she is subjected their bullying. But she doesn’t give in and even tells the other children that the only thing alices are superior in, is being stuck up. This really angers the kids, and one of the boys even starts a physical fight with Mikan. She is saved however, by Hotaru, who tells Mikan that she just ruined her chances for the “Best Student Award”, an award that would allow her to see her parents. Natsume also proposes a challenge to Mikan: to make it through the Northern Woods, and if she does, he will accept her as an alice. Mikan accepts and he allows her to bring her friends if she wants.

Hotaru and Yuu (often called “Prez”, since he is the class president) both join Mikan on her trek through the northern woods. Here, Mikan gets her first taste of the many unusual things within Gakuen Alice. First she meets a very violent Teddy Bear, called Mr.Bear, and is only able to pass by him with the help of Hotaru. Next the group comes up against a giant mutant chick, and they realize that to make it through the woods, they will need the help of Luca and his animal pheromone alice. Yuu, or Prez, uses his illusion alice to lure Luca into the northern woods and both Mikan and Hotaru convince him to calm the chick down using his alice. Luca agrees, but only if the other three don’t watch him using his alice. At first they are not sure why, but after seeing Luca and the chick frolic about, they realize why he does not want others watching him use his alice. Mikan tells Luca that he shouldn’t pretend to be so cold, when he really is a nice person. Luca, on the other hand, can’t let himself be the only happy one while Natsume suffers alone.

Meanwhile, Natsume is told by one of his scouts that Mikan’s group has taken Luca prisoner. Natsume, furious, makes his way to the northern woods, where he tells Mikan, she has failed and gets very violent. When Mikan tells him that she doesn’t know what her alice is, he doesn’t believe her and encloses both Hotaru and Prez in a circle of flames. Mikan gets very angry and rams into Natsume producing a bright light that dispels the flames. Narumi-sensei comes running in and uses his pheromone to knock Natsume out. He then proceeds to congratulate Mikan on her wonderful alice and her official enrollment into Gakuen Alice. It seems Mikan has the Negation Alice, which negates any alice that tries to harm her. Since it is immature, it doesn’t always work (like when she was being bullied in the classroom by the other children’s alices), nor can it protect anyone other then her.

My Thoughts


I first heard about Gakuen Alice last summer, and decided to watch the anime, and lucky for me, Tokyopop decided to bring over the manga to North America not too long ago. I was happy to see that they left the original title in tact, as well as the majority of the Japanese honorifics. The only thing I was mildly irritated by was the use of Prez instead of Iincho, but since Iincho more or less means prez, it isn’t too much of an annoyance. It is only strange for me, since I watched the Japanese anime prior to reading the english manga, and I am used to hearing Yuu called Iincho.

Gakuen alice is also one of Tokyopop’s better translations, but there still are a few problems. One of the later word bubbles does not make sense (it seems to be Narumi speaking, but the word bubble says “What…Narumi?”). Since it isn’t a vital bit of dialogue, I will be nice and forgive Tokyopop. =P Also, for those of you who have watched the subbed anime, and haven’t yet read the English manga, be forewarned, Tokyopop translated Ruka as Luca. This is acceptable however, since the R-L sound in Japaneses can be translated as either, an R or an L in English, and the change of the K to a C is a mere cosmetic one, as both letters produce the same sound.

On the topic of manga and anime distinctions, the manga moves at a quicker pace, mostly due to the fact that the anime added in more dialogue and scenes that were never present in the manga. Since these scenes aren’t really vital to the plot, they are not missed by me, and actually, I’m quite happy to see them go, since they slowed down the otherwise good pacing of the anime and made me feel like a bunch of filler was placed into the anime. Also, Hotaru is portrayed as more money grubbing and heartless in the anime. In the manga, when Mikan has to go to the northern woods, Hotaru, at first relutant, does indeed tag along. In the anime however, Iincho (aka Prez, or Yuu) has to bribe her. Furthermore, in the anime, Hotaru’s alice is a bit overpowered; it seems as if she can invent anything she wants without limit, in the manga however, Iincho/Prez/Yuu explains to Mikan that Hotaru’s alice is still unstable (aka immature) and she can only make things that she is interested in, and these are usually things which are intended for mischief or being lazy. Another noticeable difference is in the first scene that Mikan and Natsume interact. In the anime, Mikan’s skirt falls off while she runs to Narumi, while in the manga, Natsume pulls off her underwear. Yup, he is a lot meaner to her in the manga; pulling off panties is a no-no! And it looks like Luca/Ruka saw something too *_____*

Gakuen Alice also reminds me of Cardcaptor Sakura a lot, which is a good thing. That’s not to say Gakuen is a clone of CCS, rather both stories have a similar premise and similar leads. Both are magical girl stories (but Gakuen is more of a school drama through), and both have innocent and sweet, but also spunky leading girls who are in elementary school. The main male leads are also similar, both are, at first, mean to the leading female character (although, Natsume is a lot meaner then Syaoran ever was), but eventually fall for the heroine. There are even implied romantic feelings between the heroine and her best friend in both stories. But as I’ve said before, Gakuen is not a CCS clone, both stories go in different directions and both have different issues they deal with. Gakuen focuses on the academy and isn’t about finding any magical items. Furthermore, magical powers are more common in Gakuen, where the whole school is filled with people possessing alices, while in CCS, only a select few have special powers. In Gakuen, the less innocent themes focus on the issue of the academy and how it is corrupt, while in CCS, the focus is on unconventional relationships. These two only share a similar premise; both are distinct enough to be enjoyed together, without the reader feeling as if they have already read the other one before.

As for the cover, I think Tokyopop could have been a little more creative. Sure, it is better then the Japanese cover, but that doesn’t mean Tokyopop should be lazy and settle for a plan cover. Ok, ok, I am nit picking here, the cover really is fine, it’s just not one of the better covers out there. Gakuen also has chapter covers, all of them were lovely. I especially liked one and two. hee hee.

In closing, I am really looking forward to the second volume of Gakuen Alice. If the anime is anything to go by, this manga will definitely become a favourite of mine.

–SW

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