Gakuen Prince Volume 1
I don’t know whether to be amused or appalled by this “opposites attract” rape comedy.
The back cover blurb is generic, describing an all-girl elite high school that’s only recently started admitting boys, so there are still many more girls attending. It continues:
So begins a wild, no-holds-barred competition for the boys of the school. Which smart and independent-minded girl will rise above the fray?
Sounds like a lot of girls want one of the few available young men for a boyfriend, but it goes much further than that. There’s certainly plenty of reason that the publisher ships Gakuen Prince shrink-wrapped.
The smart girl mentioned is the bespectacled Okitsu. All she wants is to be left alone, noticed by no one. She has extreme fantasies of standing up for yourself, but she fears reprisal from her violent, spoiled classmates.
The new boy, Mizutani, is quickly told by the alpha male, Munechika, the way of the world. (Then Munechika licks his neck. It’s rather odd, after seeing so many male-oriented fan service scenes of panty-flashing and the like, to see the kind of thing that qualifies for the female audience.) Here are Mizutani’s options for dealing with the “pack of females in heat” that runs the school:
- Become a doll-like “idol” for the girls to decorate
- Act as a “Don Juan”, a slut who’ll do it with anyone
- Get a girlfriend, quick, and promise fidelity to her
- Or succumb to mob rape as a kind of indoctrination ceremony
Mizutani picks the third and (you know where this is going) randomly selects Okitsu, which brings her all the attention she hates. Of course, once he unbuttons her blouse and takes off her classes, she turns out to be gorgeous. (Disturbingly, all these scenes occur as the result of an attack of some kind, sending the message that the girl is most beautiful when she has to be rescued.)
The artistic exaggeration by Jun Yuzuki, as demonstrated by the excessive length of the boy’s torso on the cover, is typical for shojo. I suppose it’s also necessarily for the plot that the boys be unrealistically attractive. But Okitsu’s demonic backgrounds during her dreams of telling people off I found funny.
Others have mentioned that if the roles were reversed, with a group of boys raping new female students, the book would likely be burned. But I think it’s a statement of the still-existing disparity in society’s gender role expectations that sex-crazed girls are seen as comedic, not frightening. (Perhaps even more so in the more restrictive society of Japan.) It’s a rather nasty fantasy, likely quite popular among normal girls who wish they could turn the tables on the popular, attractive boys who don’t even notice them and make them pay attention.
Given the willful ignorance of sexual interest or lust that pertains to many shojo series, it’s kind of refreshing, in a demented way, to see one go so far the opposite. The balance of the relationship between Okitsu and Mizutani is also different: if they’re together, she’s bullied and abused by other girls; if they’re separate, he is. It doesn’t seem possible for them to negotiate a balance. Is this a comment on life, where someone’s always getting screwed?
He also has to vow chastity to her and wear her tie (a leash-like symbol that he “belongs” to her) for their ruse to succeed. Since they aren’t really going out (although that won’t be the case as the series continues, I predict), he’s giving up something, too, prevented by a sham relationship from having a real one. If nothing else, this book is a goldmine of psycho-sexual interpretation. It also wallows in how depraved girls can be to each other — a Mean Girls with actual sex and physical punishment.
Overall, I still can’t decide how I feel about it — but it definitely kept my attention all the way through, and I’m curious to see the next volume. (The publisher provided a review copy.)