Gakuen Alice Volume 1
学園アリス Volume 1
SPOILER Summary: SAKURA Mikan has learned that her best friend IMAI Hotaru is leaving their small Japanese town for Tokyo to attend the prestigious Gakuen Alice (Alice Academy). She's not happy to learn this information just before Hotaru leaves. However, Hotaru promises to write and is off. The next few months leave Mikan depressed because she's only received one letter from Hotaru. However, when Hotaru's mother comes with a donation for the school, Mikan decides to set out for Tokyo to see her friend and to get into Gakuen Alice. As such, she leaves a note for her grandfather, whom she lives with, and takes all the cash in the house and runs away.
Mikan makes it to the front of the academy, where she's beset upon by two con artist, looking for marks who are desperate to get into Gakuen Alice. Narumi-sensei, a teacher at the academy, sees this and uses his "gift" to send the two packing willingly. He tries to use the same thing on Mikan, but it doesn't work and she thinks he's gay. He tries again to use his ability to make her comply with his wishes, but again, she's not affected. As such, he decides to tell her that she can attend Gakuen Alice, at least on a temporary basis, and explains that it isn't a school for geniuses but those with special God-given gifts known as "Alice" and deals with a troublesome student named Natsume.
Mikan is happy to be accepted to the same school as Hotaru and after meeting with Misaki-sensei, where she learns more about the school and Alice's, she has to deal with Natsume, who tries to use his fire Alice on her, but it fails. His best friend Ruka enters and before the teachers return, Natsume tries to get Mikan to say what her Alice is. Mikan doesn't know and when the teachers re-enter the room, Ruka and Natsume escape, having stolen Mikan's polkadot panties. She flees to the teachers and Narumi-sensei comforts her, and gives her a new uniform. However, she'll have to pass the entrance exam and win over her classmates within one week. With that, he summons two kids from her new class, Iinchou (the class president) and Hotaru.
At first, Hotaru seems distant, but does come to Mikan's aid when needed, the class being pretty chaotic. In the end, Natsume decides that Mikan will have to prove she has an Alice and to do this, they must traverse the Northern Woods, where the elementary students are forbidden to go. If she can do this and return, he'll accept her. Iinchou and Hotaru are ultimately chosen as her companions and their first obstacle is a teddy bear, which beats Mikan severely. However, Hotaru defeats it with a bucket of water.
Mikan learns that Iinchou's Alice is hallucinations while Hotaru's is invention, and they discuss Natsume some as well as his friend Ruka. When they encounter a giant chick looking for food, Iinchou uses his Alice to summon Ruka, who's Alice is an affinity with animals, by making him think animals in the Northern Woods are in trouble. The trio capture Ruka, and indeed, his ability saves them. Natsume learns that they have Ruka and he enters the woods. Because he's so powerful, he uses his fire Alice to trap Iinchou and Hotaru, demanding Mikan reveal her Alice to him.
At a moment when he's distracted as Ruka goes to save an animal, Mikan attacks him for what he's done, and somehow causes his Alice power to fail, freeing Iinchou and Hotaru. Narumi-sensei arrives and uses his pheromone Alice to put Natsume to sleep. He then tells Mikan that she has a very powerful and special Alice, one that nullifies other people's Alice. As such, she's passed the entrance exam and is now an official member of the school.
Thoughts: I've enjoyed the few shoujo manga titles I've read -- Cardcaptor Sakura (mahou shoujo), Kare Kano (for the most part), Ultra Maniac (mahou shoujo), and of course Fruits Basket. Still, its not like I was going out and looking for some shoujo manga to read. Instead, I was just keeping my eyes open for any new titles that might look interesting. The cover of Gakuen Alice, with Mikan-chan on the cover, just appealed to me somehow. After checking a few pages from the TokyoPop site, I thought I'd check out the first volume. I'm glad I did.
For those wondering, TokyoPop mostly uses the Japanese honorifics. As most of you know, I appreciate this a great deal. Still, the adaptation shows TokyoPop's continued efforts to be "hip." As such, using the honorifics is likely a result of that, since it appears that more and more kids into anime are into the honorifics. That's fine with me. However, what makes me say this is the "hip" adaptation. It wreaks of American slang at times, which comes off to me as an attempt to show the kids how cool this manga is. It also makes me question the accuracy of the book. Accuracy can be done while retaining readability, but I can't shake the feeling that accuracy at times was tossed in favor of "cool."
And yet, for whatever reason, TokyoPop didn't translate the Japanese term "gakuen," which means "academy." I would have thought for sure they would have named this "Alice Academy" if nothing else. Strange they did not, and I confess, I'm glad they didn't.
As to the story, I liked what I saw and read. Higuchi-sensei did a good job making Mikan-chan very likable. I liked the story, though after I finished reading, I couldn't help but think of Asuna from Negima!. ^_^; No, Higuchi-sensei isn't copying Akamatsu-sensei, but Mikan-chan is similar to Asuna in some regards.
Higuchi-sensei has a column in each chapter, which is enjoyable to read.
I've placed this on my list of manga to follow and we'll see how things go.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Gakuen Alice Volume 1