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Animal Academy Volume 1

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Animal Academy: Hakobune Hakusho Volume 1 by Moyamu Fujino, published by TOKYOPOP

Animal Academy: Hakobune Hakusho Volume 1

© Moyamu Fujino

The Bottom Line

Neko Fukuta flunked almost all of her high school entrance exams and is left to attend the only school that would accept her, Morimori High. But Morimori is filled with special students: they're all animals who can take on human form.

Animal Academy: Hakobune Hakusho starts off with a premise that's very similar to Rosario + Vampire -- but instead of monsters, Neko's fellow students are very cute animals. With its focus on friendship and fantasy, Animal Academy has touches of sweet, slice-of-life humor that make it a fun pick for tweens.

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Pros

  • A fun fantasy tale that mixes slice-of-life humor with a touch of magical mystery
  • Adorable characters with distinct personalities that are almost immediately endearing
  • Focuses on friendship and light-hearted laughs instead of gratuitous fanservice
  • Miiko truly acts like a cat, which makes for some comical moments for cat lovers
  • Tweens will find it easy to relate to Neko's insecurities and school anxieties

Cons

  • Is it just me, or do these characters look more like 6th graders than high school freshmen?
  • Although its technically a shonen manga title, it's little too cute for male teen readers
  • How does Miiko manage to stay clothed with all of her transformations?

Description

Guide Review - Animal Academy Volume 1

Take an under-achieving high school freshman and plonk him/her into a high school that’s filled with not-quite-human classmates. You have Rosario + Vampire, right? Well, no. Take away the monsters, the fight scenes and the vampire hotties in short skirts and replace them with adorable animals and you have Animal Academy: Hakobune Hakusho.

If you're a boy, you may be thinking 'Aww, dang' -- but hold on a second. Animal Academy has charms of its own that make it worth reading, especially if you're a tween girl.

For one thing, Animal Academy is very, very cute. The characters are adorable and their animal personalities lend themselves to some endearing moments of slice of life humor.

Neko Fukuta is a human girl who has a coincidentally feline name ("neko" means "cat" in Japanese), which works in her favor when she gets accepted at Morimori High. The school administrators immediately figure out that she's not like the other students and try to turn her away, but Neko is desperate to attend her 'last chance' high school, so she begs to be allowed to stay. Neko enrolls at Morimori, on the condition that she not reveal to her classmates that she's a human.

Once this premise is established, Animal Academy is off and running, as Neko meets her dorm roommate Miiko, a pretty but headstrong cat; Kotaro the flirtatious fox, Umeka the shy raccoon and Yuichi, a student who has secrets of his own. Almost as soon as Fujino introduces these characters, they become endearing additions to the magical world of this unusual school.

Miiko in particular will make cat-lovers smile, as her moodiness, her tendency to attack small animals and her attachment to Neko will remind many readers of felines they've known and loved. Compared to Neko, who is often insecure about her abilities and does a lot of thinking before acting, Miiko is impulsive, forthright and a tad tactless, which often makes for some memorably comical moments.

Lest you think otherwise, Animal Academy has more to offer than just 'aww, that's so cute' moments. Woven throughout the story are a few tantalizing mysteries for Neko to figure out. Why does Morimori High exist? Who's that white snake that seems fascinated with her? And is she really the only human student at Morimori?

Technically, Animal Academy is considered a shonen manga story because it was published in a magazine for boys in Japan -- but my gut tells me that its charms would be most appreciated by young girls. Why? Because of its focus on friendship instead of fighting and its gentle, slice-of-life humor is a far cry from the usual slapstick and potty jokes that is usually found in boys' comics. Those things aren't necessarily bad -- they're just not what you'll find here.

Stories about magical schools are a dime-a-dozen in manga-land -- but Animal Academy is worth a look if you love animals, fantasy and just crave a little feel-good, fanservice-free fun for a change.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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