Friday, May 28, 2010

Animal Academy, Volume 1 by Moyamo Fujino

Neko Fukuta is a very bad student, and she has searched in vain for a High School that will take her despite her bad scores. When she is approached by the Morimori Academy, she thinks she has finally found her salvation.

On the train, she meets another girl named Miiko Suzuhara, who, as it turns out, is also travelling to Morimori. Neko takes a liking to the girl, especially when the girl helps her find the school, which is hidden in a thick forest. But when she is told to present her letter of Welcome to the Head, he abruptly tells her that she cannot attend. She isn't wanted.

Neko begs for another chance. She really doesn't have anywhere else to go, and the headmaster reluctantly lets her take a test. But all the problems are too hard for her, and she feels like crying. Begging again and again to be allowed to stay, the test keeps changing, and the other man in the room tells her to take the test and fail so that the headmaster has a reason to kick her out.

But when she turns back to the test, it has changed to a mere three Questions. 1) Can you act natural if you know the truth? 2) Can you assimilate into our school? and 3) Can you swear to keep the fact that you are a human being a secret?

Neko answers "Yes" to all three questions, and is welcomed into the school. Then she learns the truth about Morimori Academy: it is actually a school for magical animals who wish to learn how to pretend to be human and interact with the human world. To be safe at the Academy, she must pretend to be an animal as well.

The other man is a teacher, named Watanuki, and he's a raccoon. To help her understand the school, he lends her a book about the school, the Morimorigiten, of the Encyclopedia of the Morimori school. She is in the white class, and thinks the nature of the school explains why the entrance exam was so easy- basic math, easy Japanese and writing.

She is roomed with Miiko, the girl she met on the train, and since they usually room animals of the same kind together, and Miiko is a human, other students at the school assume that Neko (whose name means "cat") is a cat as well. But even if Miiko gets along well with Neko, and thinks Neko is a cat, she's not as comfortable with the other animals at the school.

Especially one boy, a fox named Kotaro Araki, who entered school just to find himself a wife. Not only is he relentless with hitting on every girl at the school (including Miiko, who wallops him), finding a wife is his *only* reason for being there.

But Neko isn't the only human student at the school, and when a human boy learns her secret, he wants her to go with him to run away from the school and back to the human world. But will Neko go with him, or stay at the school and try to learn, and teach the other students a bit about the human world? And what is this snake that Neko keeps seeing around? Is it a teacher, a fellow student, or the headmaster keeping tabs on her?

I actually rather like this series. None of the students looks like they should be in any kind of high school- elementary or middle school at best, but there is a sweet gentleness about the story that is very welcome to read.

There isn't much conflict in the school (Walloping Araki ia about as quarrelsome as it gets), but this is a story with definite cuteness that falls completely apart for the human students as soon as you think about it. Honestly, what kind of jobs are they going to be qualified for? That may be fine for magical animals, but for a human?

But this series will make you smile, both the art and the story, which evoke a world out of the past, sweet and magical. Suitable for even young children (at least, so far), I'd definitely recommend it, especially to anyone who liked Fruits Basket, because of the magical animal aspect.

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