So to finish out the month, we take another look at reverse harems. Today's review is a shining example of how NOT to make a reverse harem manga.
GAKUEN PRINCE (Gakuen Oji), by Jun Yuzuki. First published in 2006, and first published in North America in 2009.
Jyo-Shioka High School is a prestigious all-girls school that has recently gone co-ed. In spite of this, the male student population remains low. What this means for said male students is that they are surrounded by severely horny young women, all of whom would happily and literally gang rape them unless they choose one of three things:
1. Set oneself up as an innocent idol to be coddled.
2. Become a giant man-whore, so he can at least deal with the girls one at a time
3. Pledge his devotion to a single girl and become her boyfriend.
Such is the social structure for the S class (made up of most of the boys and the academically superior students) and the A class (everyone else). Azuza Mizutani is the latest addition to the school's male harem, and he soon finds himself adrift in a raging sea of estrogen. In a panic, he grabs the nearest girl to him and declares her to be his girlfriend. Too bad that the girl he chose, Risa Okitsu, wants nothing to do with him. She's a nerdy girl from the A class who already has enough trouble with bullying, and all she wants to do is get through each day unnoticed. Now all eyes are on her and Azuza, and she even gets bumped up to the S class through student council machinations. Will Risa be able to get along in her new class? Will she at least learn to get along with her new boyfriend?
Oh man. Someone clearly still has lingering issues with high school, and that person's name is Jun Yuzuki. I had initially picked this up because I had heard it was a subversive take on reverse harems, but not only does it fail as a reverse harem, but it fails in subversion and even just as a decent story.
To be subversive means that work needs to twist clichés in a way that is not only unexpected or ironic, but mocks the cliché as well. Well, there's certainly no humor to be found here, and the only unexpected thing is just how misogynistic it is. Every girl who is not Risa is a man-hungry, bullying rapist - it's a whole school full of Mean Girls. Honestly, if the sexes had been reversed on this situation, it would have been condemned and protested instead of licensed.
Mind you, the guys don't look much better in comparison. We get a group shot of the boys, and we see there's a short, cute one, a dark-haired devious one with glasses, a pretty blond...wait a minute, is anyone else getting Ouran High School Host Club flashbacks? Don't worry about it too hard, because we spend pretty much no time getting to know them, or getting to know Azuza for that matter.
The only character who gets anything resembling development is Risa. She looks nerdy, but she doesn't act the part. Instead she is mostly defined by her massive amounts of pent-up rage at her tormentors. This is a perfectly understandable reaction, and it might even be a bit disturbing if she ever expressed it outside of her daydreams. Instead she ends up getting cornered so that she can be saved by Azuza, There's a lot more to be said about this, but it's more appropriate for the Art section.
Gakuen Prince wants to be a dark and subversive take on reverse harems, but instead it's shallow, misogynistic, and loathable from cover to cover.
The artstyle is pretty typical for shoujo, with the characters' dark doll-like eyes and thickly drawn hair. The panels tend to be large, the backgrounds vague, and the composition average. It's far from perfect, though, and the cover is a sterling example. Look at Azuza up there on the left, his torso specifically. He either has a freakishly long, Michael Phelps-esque abdomen or he's rocking those pants spectacularly low and simply has no penis. You can pick whichever explanation amuses you most.
As you can imagine, after that my expectations for the art were pretty low. I admit that I did like the weird, exaggerated grimaces Risa makes in her daydreams, complete with dramatic lighting, simply because it's so rare that a shoujo lead is allowed to be portrayed in such an ugly manner. Too bad that whenever she needs to be rescued, her pigtails magically undo themselves, her thick glasses fall off, and a few buttons on her shirt pop open to reveal some cleavage. Oh yes, we have ourselves a classic case of Hollywood Nerd, where an unflattering hairstyle and glasses are all it takes to define a girl as unpopular, and removing them are all it takes to make her beautiful. To add to the terrible subtext, she only becomes this way when she's in peril, implying that she's at her most beautiful when she is at her weakest. This was the final straw for me in regards to this manga. At this point, I was DONE with this manga, and was ready to launch it towards the wall at Mach speed.
As typical for a Del Ray work, there's an honorifics guide in the front, translation notes and an untranslated preview of Volume 2 in the back. There are also some author's notes.
This is yet another of the worst manga I've read since starting this site. There may be stranger, more offensive, and more sexist pieces of crap out there, but they're often more honest in their intention to titillate and offend. Gakuen Prince instead tries to play off its sick ideals as humor, but those attempts only highlight their awfulness.
This series was published by Del Ray. This series is complete in 12 volumes. 3 volumes were published, and all are out of print.
You can purchase manga like this and much more through RightStuf.com!