学园王子 (Gakuen Ouji)
Shoujo – Comedy, drama, romance, reverse harem, smut
3 Volumes (U.S. release suspended), 12 Volumes original Japanese (complete)
At Jyoshi-Ko Academy, the girls rule over the guys. However, Rise just wants to live a peaceful school life. But when new transfer student Azusa sees how crazy the girls are, he decides to protect himself by making Rise his girlfriend! What will happen to Rise now?
Gakuen Prince would normally be a series I would never touch. Fantasy stories with magic are almost more realistic than this.
But there’s one thing I absolutely love about this manga: the comedy. The whole story is absolutely ridiculous and disturbing (more on that later), but the humorous portions are spot-on. Dialogue, art, even the end-of-chapter bonus panels are hilarious. Examples:
- There’s a teacher who’s so clueless and is just plain idiotic. “Oh, you’re naked? Silly boy, you forgot your underwear. Here.” Yes, he takes off his underwear to give to the student. When Rise is locked in a closet and is shouting for help, the teacher hears her cries and promptly…puts a talisman to dispel evil spirits.
- Rise and the midget Samejima have some hilarious expressions. They look like Japanese demons and Noh masks. Samejima gets stepped on and comes out ecstatic. How many shoujo heroines out-ugly mice, causing the rodents to run away in fear?
- Munechika is racing to the rescue! Except he’s still in high school and can’t drive, so he’s on his way on a scooter. A kick scooter.
Seriously, I can’t help but crack up when reading this manga. Some comedy manga wish it had this level of humor.
But, unfortunately, Gakuen Prince is both a comedy and a drama. Which leads to the main problem with this manga: the story.
Well, it isn’t necessarily the story that’s terrible. It’s the fact the “drama” goes wayyyy beyond drama. Gakuen Prince is overly dramatic, quite mature, and very disturbing. The manga is rated for older teens, and this is one manga that completely deserves its rating. There’s orgies, physical violence/bullying, and attempted rape. It’s hard to enjoy the comedy bits when the drama portions involve the main character getting cut by razor blades in her notebooks or being molested by a fellow student. The manga is rated for older teens, and this is one manga that completely deserves its rating. Seriously, there’s so many crimes here that police and prosecutors would have to work overtime to try to unravel everything.
The story doesn’t help itself by having Azusa be an idiot in the worst possible way. Are you tired of hearing or reading, “I’m a man, so let me protect you!” in an anime or manga (or even Western media)? Well, meet Azusa. He’s a guy who basically says, “I’m a man, so protect me!” This would be a nice twist if Rise was initially volunteering to save Azusa. No, he sees someone not interested in claiming him and then makes her his savior. Rise eventually agrees to help out, but it takes other characters to point out to Azusa that he can’t just depend on Rise. He has his good points, but he’s not exactly the heart-pounding wonderful hero that many shoujo readers crave. In fact, there’s another character that takes on this role, and this contrast between romantic interests brings down the story. It’s never good when another guy is constantly upstaging the main male lead.
The other main characters are all over the map. The cast members are both strong and weak, dumb and smart, independent and dependent. Rise herself is torn between wanting to avoid girls’ envy, but she does make some stands…and then often ends up suffering. Even Rise’s friends consist of a girl who is tsundere to her and a fairy-tale dreamer who won’t kiss her boyfriend until they get married. And despite the lack of adults in the manga, almost everyone answers to a higher individual or authority. It’s like a weird system of checks-and-balances. Whenever one of the cast has a moment (good or bad), either their own flaws or another person mixes things up. Munechika, for instance, seems much like the student council president type, but he’s really only a member of the disciplinary committee and has limited power. Nobunaga is quite the antagonist with both the brains and the brawn to get what he wants, but even he can’t go up against the student council president. Basically, everyone has a screw loose in their head. Or three. Or all except one.
This definitely isn’t a series you would lend to someone just getting into reading manga. But because the U.S. release is unlikely to ever resume, there’s almost little reason to start this series. Volume three ends with the characters in the middle of a crisis, so U.S. fans will likely never know what happens next without reading spoilers on the Internet. While I really could care less about the main plot, I will miss the humor.
Yuzuki’s artstyle is rather unique. I’ve already discussed Rise and Samejima’s crazy expressions, but they really are a highlight. You can’t call this typical shoujo art when the protagonist’s smile is really a horrible snarl. Samejima is a midget, and there’s even a female who is on the plump side. Rise herself is quite attractive, but she tends to stick to her braided, glasses-wearing self. This is a nice change from girls in manga who tend to never revert to their pre-makeover selves. Lots of titillating scenes are included, but many are included more for their shock value rather than romance. Yuzuki’s characters’ eyes are also quite detailed, but what’s more unique are the thick eyelids. Overall, the art is quite different. I don’t mean this in either a negative or positive way; it is just plain different. It is a breath of fresh air compared to many cookie-cutter shoujo styles, but it lacks a lot of beauty that shoujo manga is well-known for.
Honorifics are used. This adaptation is kind of unusual, starting with the title. Instead of keeping the original Gakuen Ouji or translating it to Academy Prince, Del Rey split the difference and called it Gakuen Prince. So that should give you an idea of how the adaptation is handled. More Japanese words are included than the typical English manga, which may be a good or bad thing depending on your opinion. Words like “gakuran” are used, and I’m sure people could debate for hours on whether it should have been kept or translated. Fortunately, lots of translator’s notes are included at the end of the volume, letting those unfamiliar with these words know what they mean. All in all, I’m sure readers are split.
It’s hard not to laugh at Gakuen Prince. It’s hard not to laugh at the actual story and it’s hard not to laugh at the comedic portions. If you take the story seriously, it’s disturbing on so many levels. This series is one of those “so bad it’s good” titles, and that makes it a guilty pleasure for me. Just ignore the main plot and enjoy the absurd humor.
However, since Gakuen Prince is unlikely to be continued or rescued, you will need to import almost the entire series if you want to continue reading it. The series is available in French under the title Gakuen Ouji: Playboy Academy. Warning: the ending is likely to leave fans on both sides of the love triangle unhappy.
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