Today’s review of Gakuen Alice, Volume 2, is entirely due to the kindness of Grace E! Thanks Grace, for entering the ranks of sponsors here at Okazu!
In Volume 1 of Gakuen Alice, we met irrepressibly positive and energetic Mikan, and followed her as she moved heaven and earth to be reunited with her BFF, Hotaru.
In Volume 2, Mikan is now officially a member of the Alice School but, because because all energetic and cheerful protagonists need to overcome horrible and unnecessarily cruel obstacles, she is forced into the bottom of the entire class by being given no stars, i.e., no privileges. And to continue the abuse, the students have decided to scapegoat her, (which is hideous and annoying, but pretty sensible on their part because of the overwhelming fatalist beliefs at the core of most societies.) They can be abusive because she has no power – and having no power is proof that she deserves to be abused.
To add to this cheerful scenario, Mikan learns that her letters to her Grandfather are not only not being sent, they are being destroyed.
To balance out these whopping helpings of misery and despair, Mikan is introduced to the “Special Alice” class of freaks who, like all good freaks, embrace their freakiness with joie de vivre not seen in other classes. They welcome her with open arms and she *finally* gains some allies in this horror-house of a school. Her new sempai even offers a piece of sage advice, which she put into play right away. In order to turn the energy of her bored classmates away from bullying her, she challenges them to a game of dodgeball. It keeps them busy, wears them out and in the end, a few more of the kids in the class accept her as maybe being not so bad.
Of course, this won’t end the bullying – it will increase in desperation for a little while, as the remaining antagonists escalate the issue – but for Volume 2, its 2 steps back and 2 steps forward for Mikan.
At the same time, we’re treated to strong evidence that Natsume is violent, antisocial and cruel because he’s beaten, tortured and treated like an animal. It’s a valid excuse, but it always sticks in my craw, just like the neglect and abuse that set up Harry Potter, James and the Giant Peach and every other kid’s book that uses that sort of plot driver. I’m always blown away by the idea of writing a story for little kids in which the plot is driven by cruelty against the protagonist…. What kind of crazy is that? (Yes, I know that most kids feel that way at some point or another, but there’s running away because your parents spanked you and then there’s chronic emotional torture. It’s not just a matter of degree.)
The trick of course, is that getting through the bad stuff means that you appreciate the crumbs of good that much more. If Mikan was instantly the happiest, best and most popular girl at school we’d all find her boring – and I know I probably wouldn’t trust her. lol This way we KNOW she’s worked for every little teeny ounce of respect and privilege she gains. Still…
As we all expected, Yuri in this volume is pared away to almost nothing. Hotaru presents her usual cold front, but when the chips are down, she warms up enough to help Mikan. Best Friend Forever, definitely. On the love side of things, I think Ruka-pyon has got an obvious crush, I mean – he dresses up as Mikan so she can escape. Duh. ^_^
Art – 7
Story – 6
Characters – 7
Yuri – 1
Service – 3
Overall – 7
As with Tetragrammaton Labyrinth, I’ll probably keep reading Gakuen Alice, but I’ll take it off the Yuri Wishlist, since it’s pretty much no longer a Yuri series. If anything happens in later volumes of note, I’ll be sure to mention it!