If you really, really like Shitsurakuen (失楽園) Volume 1, let me caution you about reading this review. I did not like it at all. I will be critical and, if you’re a typical fan, you’ll take that as me criticizing you, your tastes and your family – despite the fact that there is no intent to do any such thing. My intent is only to explain why *I* do not like it. So if you do like it and you are that kind of remarkably fragile that fans so often are when it comes to other people not loving what they love, then maybe you’d better skip the rest of this review. Your other option is to lecture me in the comments about how I *clearly* don’t understand what I read. Feel free to do that, of course, but be aware that my friends and I are laughing at your need to “educate” me. I did understand what I read – I simply understand it differently than you.
Shitsurakuen takes place at the oxymoronically named Utopia academy. We join the school along with transfer student Sora, and once again find that she has somehow – like so *many* heroines – managed to be accepted and transfer in without an inkling of what the school is actually like. Her expository friend Tsuki helpfully explains that she’s pretty much just transferred into hell.
Male students battle for supremacy, while female students are forced into subservient, near-slave positions, where they are dominated and abused by the males students and used to produce weapons with which the boys fight.
Fans of Revolutionary Girl Utena will immediately recognize many of the qualities of the duels, and will understand that every girl has been turned into Anthy. It comes down to our not-even-remotely androgynous, but nonetheless determined-to-protect-a-princess Sora. Sora’s name made me smile, btw. Utena’s family name was “Tenjou” – ceiling. “Sora” has broken free of the confines of that limitation and is the entire sky.
As far as the duels go, despite the guys’ screaming, Sora mostly keeps winning, except when she’s sucker-punched or ganged up on, thus accumulating a harem of 2.5 girls by the end of the volume. (.5, because one girl is currently questionable, for various reasons. No doubt she will join our our team – wink, wink, nudge, nudge – by the end of Volume 2.) Plus Tsuki, whose job it is to provide exposition.
As I said initially, I did not like this manga at all.
For one thing, the humiliation and abuse of the girls at the school made me ill. The near gang rape of a middle school student was pretty much the icing on that shitcake. And the premise that, if left unchecked, all men become abusive, rapist animals makes me angry on behalf of the men I know. I really didn’t enjoy spending time at Utopia. I want all the women to pick up cast-iron frying pans and swing. Knees break easily, as I always say.
I’m sure that Sora will continue to save the day and will eventually save all the women at Utopia.
Art – 7
Story – 8 if you can make it work in your head, 2 for me
Characters – same
Yuri – 1
Service – 6
Violence against women as entertainment for women deeply disturbs and puzzles me. Violence against women as entertainment for men enrages me. And that is why I did not like Shitsurakuen – because being enraged does not make me feel happy. Give me a manga where equals kick the crap out of each other and I’m there. Something like this? Pass.