Lovely artwork, shame about the plot…
Himoto Sora is an extremely chivalric girl. One day she’s accepted into the prestigious Utopia Academy out of the blue, and even more confusingly she’s sent the boys’ uniform; but that’s nothing compared to what happens once she actually gets there. It’s not just a school, it’s a training ground for the Iwhaijiri corporation to ingrain chauvinism and a natural sense of superiority into the male students – and what’s more, the girls are both the weapons and the prizes. It’s up to Sora, as the honourary “Prince” of the piece to save as many girls as possible – but is everything as straightforward as it seems?
Ehm… Yeah. Shitsurakuen is an interesting one to say the least. On the one hand it makes a very interesting point about the oppressors being as oppressed as the ones they tread on, as well as structures of power and psychological shackles etc. But on the other, all of this is part of a very focused initial couple of volumes which turn into quite flabby final ones. “Flabby” because the plot loses focus towards the end and you get the feeling that the clues, relationships and explanations which should have been there throughout the story to come together at the finale, were sacrificed for gratuitous panels of big-breasted and cute girls blushing. I don’t have a problem with shoujo-ai, there are places in Shitsurakuen where bosomy babes looking vulnerable works – trouble is there are too many panels of this at times when you need plot-work. Everything is explained extremely randomly at the end and you feel a bit cheated that both the main action and the emotional storyline are wrapped up so haphazardly; as if Naomura-sensei is saying: “Yeah, I know that you’ve invested your time and energy into seeing this through – but I’m just gonna chuck it together as I go. Deadlines, y’know.”
All that aside, the artwork is extremely pretty and I enjoy the ongoing fairytale and Paradise Lost motifs. There’s something very fluid and elegant in a simple way about the drawing, like a girl who doesn’t wear much make up or flashy clothes and yet still looks absolutely radiant when they turn up at class having just fallen out of bed.
I’m awarding 3 out of 5 for Shitsurakuen; whilst I feel cheated and annoyed, there was enough content before the flabbiness kicked in to redeem it – along with the artwork and some very nifty motif work it’s just about salvageable.
Stay tuned folks!