From the stack: Gakuen Prince

May 14, 2009

gakuenRise Okitsu and I have something in common. We both loathe her classmates at the prestigious Jyôshioka Gakuen Private High School. We both also harbor a burning desire to go full-on rage monkey on the unbalanced, entitled herd. Poor Rise is too meek, but I’m a prudish blowhard with a blog, so I’m a little freer to express myself about the cast Jun Yuzuki’s Gakuen Prince (Del Rey).

Jyôshioka Gakuen used to be an all-girls’ school, but it’s slowly incorporating males into the student body. This sounds like a set-up for a reverse-harem comedy that might feature some stuttering nerd plunged into a baffling sea of cuteness. And Gakuen Prince does feature a new student, Azusa Mizutani, navigating these strange waters. Yuzuki distinguishes her series from the reverse-harem herd by opening it with a gang of girls sexually assaulting a male student.

You see, this is what the girls of Jyôshioka Gakuen do. Deprived of male companionship for so long, they’ve devolved into vicious, infighting bands of sexual predators. Smart boys either get a girlfriend or, like Azusa, pretend to get one (poor Rise, in this case), as taken boys are off limits. Of course, this targets the girlfriends (even pretend ones, like poor Rise) for vicious bullying – razor blades in their notebooks and other high-spirited antics. For bonus points, Rise’s vicious classmates set her up to be assaulted by the school’s troglodytic lesbian to teach Rise a lesson, because that’s always funny.

I’ve seen Gakuen Prince described as satire, but I don’t think it makes the cut. In my definition, satire needs to have something meaningful or observant to say about its object, and Yuzuki merely takes familiar tropes to nasty excesses. For me, going over the top doesn’t really count as commentary.

I’ve also seen the goings-on in the book described as joyless, and I totally agree. They’re raucous, yes, but it feels more like the set-up for a particularly sordid episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit than a comedy. But maybe I’m weird in finding stories about minority populations living in a climate of terror where they could be assaulted at any moment to be really, really bleak.

(This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.)