This is the first manga I've read by Arina Tanemura, and I can't say I was expecting much from it, but I have to say - this is great stuff!
The story centres around Haine, a young girl whose past is pretty tragic to say the least. As a young girl, her father sold her to a business contact to try to rescue his ailing company, and now Haine lives with the Otomiya family. Whilst her adoptive parents are supportive and caring, she hasn't seen her real mother since.
As an act of rebellion, Haine became a Yanki (a delinquent who typically wear long coats and start fights in the streets). Despite her diminutive frame, she's extremely tough and has a well deserved reputation.
However, when we're first introduced to Haine, she's a reformed character, and no longer lives a Yanki lifestyle. Demure and hard working, we only occasionally see her wilder side, but even though she suffers from heartache over the school's Emperor, Shizumasa Togu, she's certainly no victim.
That said, there are obstacles to her love. Firstly, she only ranks Bronze in a school that's divided by points and wealth into Gold, Silver and Bronze. Only the Emperor can be Gold, and that leaves Haine with some serious competition to beat to gain his attention.
Incredibly enough, events soon pick up at an almost unbelievable pace - by the end of the first book she's in an enviable position in the student hierarchy and her dreams may have a shot at becoming reality.
Apart from being a case that should really have been handled by social services, Gentlemen's Alliance Cross successfully creates a compelling social hierarchy and effortlessly works so much character and detail that I could scarcely believe it. At no point did I feel lost or bored, and the author has paced things so well that by the end of book two it feels like volume 10.
The artwork is also first rate, with plenty of screentone and detail to give the artwork depth. The character designs are attractive and distinctive, and the flow of the panels is spot on.
Fans of Shojo should grab this as soon as possible, as its a prime example of the genre. Along with Viz's other release this month, Nana, shojo fanatics have much to thank Viz for.