With a premise reading like a mash up of Rosario+Vampire with My Gym Partner is a Monkey, Animal Academy: Hakobune Hakusho doesn’t look too promising. But it proves to not just be a fun read, but also on it’s audience will enjoy. Neko Fukuta has such poor grades that she can’t get into any high school, until she applys to Morimori High. Just getting to the school turns out to be the start of an adventure for Neko, as she starts at a mysterious school with far from normal students and faculty.
Review: Animal Academy: Hakobune Hakusho Volume 1
By Moyamu Fujino
Age Rating: All ages (10+)
Tokyopop; May 2009 ISBN: 978-1-4278-1095-3
192 pgs. $10.99
I wasn’t sure what I would think of this title when I first got it. It’s premise seemed much too derivative to work, but the appeal of animals being main characters got to me, so I decided to check it out. For the most part, it’s an enjoyable read, but not really a great one. Younger Tweens will probably enjoy this more than older ones, and it seems to lean more toward girls than boys, though I think both can get into it.
This title is about Neko Fukuta. She’s desperate to get into a High School, and is thrilled when she is accepted into Morimori High. There doesn’t seem to be a particular reason why Neko wants this. There’s no pressure from her peers or parents. It’s just something she wants to do. This plot points feels a bit forced, especially with how desperate Neko shows she is, without having any real goal. But Neko herself turns out to be a decent character. She good natured and kind, and while not very smart, has some good common sense about her. On the other hand, she’s also insecure, not just about her situation, but also herself. She’s fairly likeable and is relatable to readers.
Her classmates, however, turn out to be quite a handful. They are all shapeshifting, magical animals that have come to Morimori High to learn to be more human. This means, among other things, practicing to stay in their human shape all the time, not eating other classmates, and even learning to open a door. Neko’s first friend and roommate is Miika, a cat who is possessive, pushy and critical of other animals. In other words, a cat. Just because they are in human form, the students don’t stop acting like the animals they are. I liked this part of the story, as it made the interactions between the characters more interesting.
The story for this title is pretty standard. In order for Neko to stay in the school, she has to keep the fact that she’s human a secret. The chapters in this volume are the typical new school stories. Getting to know the main characters and school, as well as putting Neko into situations where her secret will get out are at the core of this volume. Besides Neko and Miika, we’re introduced to Kotaro, a fox who has a crush on Miika, and Yuichi, who has has a lot in common with Neko. The stories are fairly simple and might not be very satisfying to older Tween readers. Younger readers will most likely enjoy the characters and not care so much for the disjointed story.
Overall, Animal Academy: Hakobune Hakusho is an average title. There’s no violence in the book, other than Miika, who slaps people she doesn’t like, or upset her, and a snake that keeps getting caught be the cats in the school. The scene with him and Miika was humorous. The most serious drama is Neko begging to be admitted. The art is serviceable, but there’s nothing extraordinary about it. It would still make a good library addition, as kids will enjoy it. My 10 year old daughter endorsed it, kitty slapping and all.
This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Tokyopop.