Written by Ross Locksley on 18 Sep 2014
Distributor Seven Seas • Author/Artist Milk Morinaga • Price £7.99
Gakuen Polizi is a yuri manga. For those who don't know, a yuri manga is a girl-on-girl romance manga, which is something I didn't realise applied to this book. That said, you'd never know - there's very little "yuri" action in the book at all, just a few harmless, jokey references, but certainly nothing to get offended/titillated over (delete as appropriate!)
The story concerns Sasami Aoba, an undercover Polizi working in an all-girls high school, always on the look out for bad guys to defeat and evil to quash; ditzy, earnest and constantly fantasizing about being a "champion of justice". Unfortunately for her... nothing untoward ever happens at Hanagaki high school.
In a particularly over-zealous moment, Sasami blows her cover and is spotted by Sakuraba Midori, who also happens to be an undercover Polizi and, it turns out, unwitting partner of Aoba.
There are a few rather tame mysetries to solve (missing keychains and the like), but the real meat of the story seems to be Midori's past - why was such a capable officer assigned to such a dead-end assignment, and is it possible that someone from her past may be looking to catch up with her?
Sadly, answers to those questions are absent from book one, which feels rather empty as a result. In truth, her past sounds much more interesting than her present, and I was really hoping the book would show some kind of flair to keep me reading, but a few shady panels were really all that was on offer. It doesn't help that Aoba's such a clutz, and good-hearted or not, she's really not much of a lead. The "Sasami" reference also throws up comparisons to the Tenchi Universe series, where a similarly ditzy cop named Mihoshi was partnered with the far more capable Kiyone, but they only warranted background status really. It's a pretty old premise and really needs something special to make it work. Gunsmith Cats (for example) had crazy cars, deadly dames and an edge that could cut diamonds. This... not so much.
I found almost everything in the book entirely forgettable, from the characters to the (and I'll use the term loosely) "cases". Part of the problem may be the sparse artwork - it's extremely light on background detail, with almost every panel just a character piece. The artwork is nice enough, capable with some good angles and interesting page layouts, but you don't get much of a sense of "place" about it. It could be set on a spaceship for all you can glean from much of it.
I'm just not sure who this is aimed at - yuri fans will doubtless feel short-changed, police-drama fans will possibly wonder why the police would waste government money sending not one but two undercover cops to a school that has a non-existant crime-rate, and everyone else... well, who knows.
If you're looking for a (very) light yuri adventure, this may be the easiest lead-in to the genre ever. There's nothing to particularly dislike about the book, but it really is all fluff, no stuff. For that reason I'd find it hard to recommend, even to devoted fans of the genre. With luck, later volumes will add some meat to an otherwise very lacklustre meal.
Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time.
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