katherin q Jan 31, 2013
Gakuen Alice, or Gakuen Arisu in Japan, translates to Alice Academy, the setting of this maho shojo series that has been running in Hana to Yume magazine since 2003. Licensed by Tokyopop, the series saw its stateside debut in 2007. A mix of Fruits Basket meets Harry Potter meets X-Men, Gakuen Alice starts out as a cutesy magical powers story and evolves into something more sinister and emotional.
The Gist: Ten year old Mikan Sakura grew up with her best friend Hotaru in the countryside. When Hotaru is taken away to special school for geniuses, Mikan misses her so much that she decides to travel to Tokyo to find her. Arriving at the gates, she runs into a teacher at the Academy who accidentally discovers that Mikan has the qualifications to enroll at the school. Inside Alice Academy Mikan learns that all the children gathered there have special abilities of one type or another, termed Alices. She is temporarily assigned to a class which reunites her with Hotaru. Mikan must make friends with the others in her class and become partners with rebel student Natsume Hyuuga, all while trying to identify her Alice in order to stay permanently. As the story unfolds, Mikan realizes that not everything is hunky dory at the Academy and there is someone behind the scenes manipulating students to use their Alices against their will. Then there is an organization on the outside trying to get rid of Alices. Mikan’s blissful ignorance comes to a screeching halt as she discovers how her own Alice is related to events of the past. Events that exacerbated this dark existence at the academy. She and her friends are determined to save all the students. That means facing the past and overcoming the evil that makes Alice Academy the unhappy place it has become.
I haven’t gotten into maho shojo characters this much since Cardcaptor Sakura. Mikan and Natsume have made my all time favorite couples list. I urge you not to dismiss it if you aren’t hooked by the first volume. The exposition of characters takes a while, and the story really starts to get deeper as the books continue.