Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gakuen Heaven by Spray and You Higuri review

Gakuen Heaven

Author/Artist: Spray/You Higuri

Publisher: BLU

Rating: M – for ages 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, School Life

Grade: B+

Keita Ito has just been accepted into the world renowned Bell Liberty Academy (BL Academy, get it?). This school admits only the cream of the crop for its students. Keita is an average student and an average athlete, so he has no idea why he's been admitted to this prestigious school. There is one thing that sets Keita apart from the rest, though. Keita is supremely lucky. Just to prove this point there was a major bus accident on his way to the school. Because he couldn't fit his futon in his luggage it unfolded itself and acted as a cushion. He didn't even get a scratch.

He awakens to see the faces of two stunningly handsome young men. Soon Keita meets a gaggle of gorgeous students that all have exceptional talents. One student seems to have caught his eye, Tetsuya Niwa, the Student Council President AKA the King. After Keita is asked by the Junior Director of the Board to withdraw from school all of Keita's new friends, lead by Niwa, try to do everything in their power to keep Keita at BL Academy. The Chairman of the Board announces that there will be an MVP battle. Whichever team of two students wins will have whatever wish (within reason of course) granted to them. Of course Keita's wish is to stay at BL Academy even though he still hasn't figured out why he's there. There is only one student he wants as his partner, the King. Yet Niwa is in high demand. He's smart, strong, you name it that's Niwa for you. Can Keita overcome these obstacles to win the MVP Battle and the King's heart?

For those of you that don't know Gakuen Heaven was a very popular BL game in Japan. Following certain scenarios you could decide whom Keita would end up with. Because this was a super popular franchise: manga, an anime series, and a ton of doujinshi followed. There were even more video games spawned from this phenomenon. You Higuri-sensei was involved with the character design from the get go and she did an amazing job. She has to be in the list of my top five favorite manga-ka. The art is so detailed and beautiful that you can't help but be captivated by it. After reading Gakuen Heaven I found myself obsessed with the whole franchise. I first checked out the anime series, which takes the path of a different character being the apple of Keita's eye (plus it sticks pretty close to the game as well). After I checked out the anime I then moved on to the original game by Spray and Higuri-sensei. I knew by that point that I wasn't going to be able to make a clean break from Gakuen Heaven, I decided to go with the flow.

At the end of the book in the author's notes we learn that this particular volume is pure fan service. In the magazine BexBoy they had a contest to see who the fans would like to see Keita with the most. The votes were for Niwa. From what I can tell from the game (I don't read or speak Japanese [I desperately want to learn]) it covers the time from Keita's arrival to the party after the MVP battle. It looks like they just adapted the game to favor Niwa and the manga covers the same material as the game. In the other two Gakuen Heaven manga they take place after the MVP battle and have new situations for the characters to face. Yes, I do know that is the case because I have one of the other books (plus the novel, which I can't read [but I don't care]). This is a franchise that I wish there would be more for us to enjoy in English. I know that BLU has the publishing rights to Gakuen Heaven: Closer to You (this is the Keita x Nakajima pairing [Nakajima is the Vice President of the Student Council]). But they pushed back the publishing date on it so I don't know when this will be coming to us. I would give my left arm (seeing how I'm right handed, but if my right arm is needed I'll sacrifice it too) to get Gakuen Heaven: Calling You published here. If you couldn't tell, this is the pairing I'm most passionate about, it's the Keita x Kazuki pairing (Kazuki is an old childhood friend and Chairman of BL Academy).

I like this manga on so many levels. The story is good, even though you get a feeling of being rushed at the end. The art is spectacular, which you come to expect from Higuri-sensei. The sex is handled very tastefully. This is a good yaoi starter manga. The yaoi stereotypes and plot devices are all there, male body parts are more defined (as opposed to the blank space you usually see) but it goes by so quickly I had to go back to double check to see if it was indeed more defined. It truly is great for beginners. It's also beautiful to look at. There is a full color first page and you immediately fall for Keita's wide-eyed innocence and determination. Check it out, I definitely recommend it!

***Review Copy purchased at Borders***

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