By Leroy Douresseaux
December 4, 2007 - 14:40
|Thanks to barnesandnoble.com for the image.|
Apparently Hotaru has enrolled in an exclusive, secretive private school, the Alice Academy (or National Alice Research Institute Academy Headquarters). In fact, the academy is not merely a private school. The “Alice” in the name refers to a person who possesses special powers or “God-given gifts.” Hotaru’s gift is inventing gadgets. Although Mikan manages to get into the school, she has no idea what her special power is, and that makes her the object of hate for many other students.
One of them is the sullen bad boy, Natsume Hyuga; cranky and arrogant, Natsume can cast fire. He doesn’t like Mikan, seeing her as a phony who doesn’t belong at Alice Academy, and he’s willing to place Mikan in a dangerous situation, if that what it takes to remove her.
THE LOWDOWN: While the publisher describes Gakuen Alice as a fantasy/comedy, it’s also an especially dark drama, like one of those television teen soaps. With an emphasis on such staples of school as rivalries, bullying, cliques, achievement, grades, etc., Gakuen Alice’s fantasy elements (the special powers) often take a backseat to the melodrama of being a school kid.
Gakuen Alice, Vol. 1 is a little slow going early on, but when the student politics and fighting starts, Gakuen Alice becomes quite flavorful. In fact, the series has much upside, as it offers dark hints that some of the students will have unhappy futures because of their powers. Think of Gakuen Alice as the late animated series “X-Men: Evolution” with touches of “Gossip Girl” and “One Tree Hill,” and suddenly, Alice Academy is a place worth being.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: A shojo (girls’ comics) title, Gakuen Alice should appeal to that audience, but between the lines is enough edge to make it worth sampling by other readers.
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