Monkey High!, also known as Saruyama!, ran in the publication Betsucomi from 2005 to 2009. I was first introduced to this series through Shojo Beat several years ago. I discovered that my local library had the series and decided to give it a full read through. Monkey High! evolves from what appears to be another cliché shojo title to a thoughtful reflection of relationships.
The Gist: Due to her father’s political scandal, Haruna Aizawa is forced to transfer from prestigious K high to a new high school she dubs “Monkey High”. This is because the social life of the students reminds her of a mountain of monkeys with all the fights and drama. One boisterous primate, Masaru “Macharu” Yamashita, catches Haruna’s eye with his outgoing, bright personality. The series follows Haruna and Masaru’s relationship through their high school years.
The Characters/Romance: Haruna begins as a quiet observer, trying to stay unattached to her new school due to her father’s reputation. However, with all the monkey drama, she ends up being dragged into escapades by her classmates and becomes acquainted with Masaru and his friend Atsu. “Saru” is the Japanese term for monkey. So it’s no surprise that Masaru is known as “baby monkey” by his classmates. With his big ears and chimp-like grin, he charms with his beaming, winsome personality. Haruna can’t help but be drawn to the warmth of his demeanor after coming from an aloof household. As the characters develop, the romance factor escalates. Haruna’s father as well as Atsu are both obstacles that Masaru and Haruna must overcome. The relationship of Masaru and Haruna is lovely to watch. The ending of the series is too good to be true, but makes the read such fun enjoyment. I liken this series to High School Debut or Lovely Complex.
The Art: Akira’s art makes the series so charming. Chibi Masaru with big ears and monkey tail – you can’t help but grin. Then there are the more serious scenes with less toning and more line work. Such a nice contrast. One of Akira’s drawings has become a new favorite of mine. A sketchy line drawing of Masaru sleeping. It’s so adorable. The colored work looks nice as well, although somewhat washed-out. Or maybe I should say not vividly saturated? That would explain why the designs of covers and wallpapers I’ve seen are accented with bright colors.
The Audience: Monkey High! starts out cute and cuddly, but by the end of the series the teens take their relationship to a physical level. No inappropriate images, but the content is intimate. This series is most appropriate for older teens.
The Media: Monkey High, published in the states by Viz, is complete at 8 volumes.