Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Animal Academy, Volume 3 by Moyamu Fujino

Neko Fukuta is a human who was desperate to get into a good high school, because she is a bad student. Her last resort was MoriMori academy, and she begged hard to be let in. After answering three questions, she was allowed to enroll and discovered the truth about the school- it was a school for magical animals who can transform from human form to animal and back. Part of the cost of going to the school is keeping quiet as to who its students really are, and what they can do.

In this issue, Fune gets a gold, and a race is on among her friends who know her secret (that she's human) to get her the human-style cold medicine she needs without alerting the teachers or the students who aren't in the know. Ninja twins Sasuke and Yuusuke work against each other to steal the cold medicine from where it is located, and get it to Fune first.

Then, Kotaro, a student and friend of Fune's whose true form is that of a fox, wants to confess his feelings of love for Miiko, Fune's roommate who just so happens to be a cat. Trying to make his declaration a success, Fune and Yuuichi have plenty of suggestions for him- take her to a special place, give her a gift... but will any of it make a difference to how Miiko feels about Kotaro? Does he even have a chance with the shy and stand-offish cat girl?

Then, A confrontation between Sasuke and Takuma results in Takuma being hurt, will Sasuke be able to forgive himself for what happened? And will Takuma be able to forgive Sasuke? Yuiichi doesn't seem to be able to wrap his head around being a magical transforming animal, and his identity crisis is causing him a great deal of stress. But can a visit home to his parents sort out his problems? And how will his friends take his going home, especially Fune, who wants to help him but finds herself tongue-tied by his desire to exit. Can she tell him how she feels before he leaves and prevent him from going?

This was an awfully cute manga. It's rated for teens, but in reality, so far it hasn't been anything more than an eight or ten year old would feel uncomfortable with. There's plenty of "I like you" and Kotaro asks Miiko to marry him, but there isn't any kissing or groping. It's more like hugging- only the most innocent forms of expression. I have a hard time believing that these are supposed to be high school characters- their cute designs make them look like middle schoolers at best.

Even if this didn't have magical transforming animals, I would say that fantasy predominates in this story. Although it is supposed to take place in Japan, it's one with far more open spaces. And it even gives a sort of Fruits Basket-y vibe of pristine, unspoiled places and gentle friendship rather than romance. This may change, later, but for now there is a high level of innocent friendship going on, with the sort of "romance" one finds in the second grade.

I liked this volume. It evokes feelings of nostalgia and looking backwards to the past along with dreamy innocence and far back youth. There is nothing objectionable, no panty shots or anything hinky. Even kids would enjoy this book. Recommended.

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