Last time on YMC, we took a look at a serious drama. Now it’s time to enter the world of bizarre logic (even for anime standards), a yuri harem. This is Shitsurakuen.
deviantart by ~Kamykori
Alternative Title: Paradise Lost.
Number of Volumes: 6, split into 24 chapters and 5 bonus chapters.
Genres: Action, Drama, Fantasy, Harem, School Life, Sci-fi, Yuri, Shounen.
Plot Summary: Sora Himoto is a transfer student with a sense of justice and dreams of becoming a knight. Upon arriving at Utopia Gakuen, she learns of a virtual reality-like game called Exaclan played by the male students in which they use girls as weapons in battles for status and treat them as commodities. Seeing one of these girls being abused, she steps in and through some sort of error, unwittingly becomes the first female participant of the game.
The best way I could describe this manga in today’s standards is Revolutionary Girl Utena meets Black Rock Shooter TV. This is a (mostly) yuri shounen with lots of action, a plot that makes sense on paper, but difficult to understand what they wanted to accomplish and like many shounen, it takes a while (meaning till the final volume) for things to make sense…and even then it’s still confusing. In short, it’s weird.
Let us begin with the good parts. First off, the manga is, for the most part, a yuri harem. It is clear that most of the girls fall for our lovable heroine, or at least have some romantic interest in her. The antagonists are the rude boys who treat the girls as servants and not human beings due to the school system. The fight scenes are fine, though I am not much of a good judge when it comes to drawn battles over animated ones. In this manga, the drawings are clear enough for readers to imagine how the battle would have been like in animated form. It’s like a combination of shounen and cuteness. Hmm, what else? Oh, the girls are cute. Not hot, but cute. Initially weakened to the point of being masochistically insane fantasy fetish girls, they later become more likable after being freed from their captives in a duel between Sora and the macho mad men. The rescued girls portray classic stereotypes, even Sora herself is infected with shounen protagonist serum (Her greatest weapon is her persistence and courage and her greatest weakness is her low intelligence). As for the antagonists, hoo boy. You REALLY need to see for yourselves. They’re…something else…especially the mastermind.
I have not said much about Sora herself so I will do so right now. She’s a pretty cool heroine who is worthy of all the affection her harem blessed her with. She earned every single heart she wooed with her charms, courage and silliness. Also, she’s pretty good in combat. She isn’t unbeatable but she fights till her last breath every time is what I am saying. She still has the aforementioned “shounen protagonist serum” running through her veins but it is to be expected when watching or reading a shounen.
The bad parts…well, patience is a virtue and you’ll require a lot of patience when reading this manga. The whole aged patriarch system is simple on the surface, but unnecessarily complicated within. As mentioned above, you will need a little patience with the main plot and I cannot guarantee that once you reach the climax, the explanation will make any sense. Another problem is that this manga’s drama is incredibly melodramatic. Like BRS TV, the drama is insane and possibly laughable, depending on how critical you are as a young adult animeniac. It’s clear the writers were inspired by Utena when writing this manga’s plot but I’m not sure how well they approached the symbolic portion of the show, as both Utena and BRS TV are known for their heavy symbolism (The former obviously more than the latter). The third negative is the ending. While I personally enjoyed the ending for what it was, it also left me with questions as to whether Sora made the right decision or it was forced. You’ll have to read for yourselves to find out. I think the ending is controversial enough for a debate.
In conclusion, if you’ve seen and tolerated the glorious insanity that was Black Rock Shooter TV or are simply curious , you won’t have any trouble picking this one up. Plenty of melodrama and “yuri harem goodness” await readers brave enough to endure the madness. However, I’ll admit that this is not what I’d call a MUST READ epic masterpiece. It’s more like a…cat killing curiosity. For the people who did enjoy this manga, awesome. It’s good to know there were nation members who found a way to love this manga.