Yuri Manga: Gakuen Alice, Volume 1 (English)

March 11th, 2008

It’s always nice to return to one’s roots – if only for a good laugh. My Yuri fannishness began with Sailor Moon, I whetted it on Utena and honed it into a finely-edged obsession on Maria-sama ga Miteru. So it’s kind of nice, in between the loads and loads of stuff for guys I read and watch, to take a step back into the shoujo world from time to time.

My sincere thanks to today’s review sponsor, Brent, for allowing me to do so.

Gakuen Alice is the first manga I simply decided to wait and read in English, not for any particular reason, except that I expected it to be out much sooner than it was. (Based on nothing but common sense, I believe that the delay was a conscious decision by Tokyopop to set this up as their flagship shoujo title after Fruits Basket ended.) I reviewed the anime originally in November 2004, and updated my review, with a pronunciation of “Yep, it’s Yuri” in April 2005. I knew then that the manga was not as Yuri as the anime; that only the early chapters really have the Mikan x Hotaru love-loveness. That’s okay. Today I am reviewing those early chapters. ^_^ (The anime closely followed the manga at the beginning, so for the basic premise, hit up that 2004 review.)

Since it’s been three years since I last thought about Gakuen Alice there was a lot I’d forgotten. Mostly, I’d forgotten how really obnoxious the whole Alice school setup was, with institutional bullying and uncontrolled and uncontrollable children. I’d also forgotten how freakin’ violent and depressing this story is in the early parts! Good god – *this* is what we give little girls to read for entertainment? I especially resent the constant sexual harrassment “gag” about the color of Mikan’s underwear – that’s not a funny thing at all to most little girls.

I’d also forgotten how hyper and funny Mikan is – and how much she really, truly loves Hotaru. And yes, I realize that their love is that of true friends, close enough to be sisters, and that it is unreasonable to expect that they become a couple (anime not withstanding,) but tell that to the translators! lol

This book is translated in a way that constantly beats you over the head with language that expresses Mikan’s love for Hotaru in a “love” kind of way. Like she’s setting out to find her soulmate, not a BFF. I know that it’s pandering and meant to be funny, but if you really want to – and what Yuri fan doesn’t – you can just interpret it literally. At the end of Volume 1, at least, there’s no doubt that Mikan is besotted. (Unless you want to doubt that. Then go right ahead.) In fact, the language is so over the top that it often seems like Mikan is repeating things she heard on TV and doesn’t really understand herself. Hotaru is, as in the anime, cold and distant. But that’s how Hotaru is – pretend it’s tough love and it’ll fit just fine into your understanding of the series as a “Yuri” story.

Tokyopop did a nice job on the reproduction, with clear tones (so important in shoujo manga) and a very decent translation. Some of the sound effects – the minor ones in particular – aren’t translated. The adaptation of the script is quite good – the characters even have voices of their own, something I rarely see in translated manga – sometimes because the original creators didn’t bother with voice, sometimes because the translators don’t have a good grasp of it. It’s important to me and sets a story above others in its class when I encounter it.

Ratings:

Art – 7
Story – 7
Characters – 7
Yuri – 4
Service – 3

Overall – 7

It was really nice to spend some time back in the shoujo world again and remember what it’s like to be a girl.

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7 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Girl on the cover looks like younger version of Yumi from Marimite.

  2. It’s a popular hairstyle among active little girls. I wore it myself at that age.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Mikan and Hotaru are such a cute couple, but unfortunately the author decided to pair Mikan up with a guy who starts off as her worst enemy. Wow, he tried to fry her to a crisp (and would have succeeded if it weren’t for Mikan’s nullification Alice). It must be love. Bleh. I really dislike Nastume.

  4. I’m with you. The shoujo trope of falling for the guy who is meanest to you bothers me a great deal.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Now maybe *this* is just *me*, but *I* don’t *see* how *this* is Yuri. haha

  6. Chiibi says:

    Definitely not a true Yuri series. I agree on the subtext on Hotaru’s part at least but I don’t think Mikan’s feelings are “those” type of feelings at all. Hotaru’s a different story…she actually kisses Mikan in chapter 132. o_o Kind of shocking.

    I also feel the Natsume hate is a bit unfair. Enough to say that if you truly dislike him, you probably haven’t read enough of the manga. At first he just seems like a typical abusive bully just because he’s emo and scarred but he’s actually much deeper than that. Everything he does has a reason and it’s not because he’s mean to Mikan that she falls for him-it is only after she begins to heal him with her cheerfulness and he starts treating her like a human being, do the sparks begin to fly. He also falls for her FIRST. Even by volume 12, Mikan’s feelings for him are still unclear, aside from moments when she goes “doki doki” from his unpredictable actions. Their fights are reduced to childish banter but once his past unfolds, Natsume is revealed to be an extremely tragic but noble character who couldn’t kill anyone in a million years, let alone “burn Mikan to a crisp”. People ship these two for a good reason…..

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