S.A. (a.k.a. Special A) Vol. #15 (Mania.com)

By:Greg Hackmann
Review Date: Thursday, April 22, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Minor plot threads come back to haunt the series.

Creative Staff
Writer/Artist: Maki Minami
Translation: JN Productions
Adaptation: Amanda Hubbard

What They Say
The SA class decides to get away from it all with a vacation in Finn's home country to join in the big beach festival. But it's no fun in the sun for Finn when the alluring Alisa Apelton attempts to make Ryu her boyfriend. Things go from bad to worse when during a poolside accident, Hikari finds out Finn's secret!

The Review!

At about the halfway point through this latest volume of S*A, I actually had to stop and double-check the cover to make sure I hadn't accidentally skipped a volume.  Yep, this was Volume 15 all right, despite the fact that the love triangle subplot that made up most of Volume 14 was nowhere to be found.  Not that I really miss having that arc around ... but to suddenly and completely drop the whole thing, even if just temporarily, makes me wonder if Minami has resigned to just making up plot twists as she goes along.
Then again, the problem could simply be that Minami has spread the narrative too thin with numerous dangling subplots; most of the content this time around is dedicated to advancing plot threads that we last saw mentioned three or four volumes ago.  The first two chapters finally follow up on a minor story arc where the S*A members decided to spend their Golden Week in Finn's home country, and more generally on the unusual plot twist about Finn really being a girl in disguise.  I've given Minami flak before for overextending uninteresting stories, and I'll do it again for this arc; there's no need to spread it out over two whole chapters, especially with the second one being mostly filled with a tedious storyline where Hikari and Finn escape from the royal palace in disguise.  On the bright side, the time spent advancing the romantic subplot between Finn and Ryu is well-spent here: seeing as they're arguably the most charismatic couple in S*A, it's nice to see the melodrama between them play out a bit more.
Unfortunately, that subplot -- and a single funny scene in the volume's closing arc -- are about the only significant entertainment value I got out of this volume.  The middle arc, where love-potion candy compels Kei to (gasp!) hold hands with Hikari and (scandal!) ask her to share a drink, only managed to remind me of how little chemistry the two have in their relationship.  The volume closes out by reintroducing Megumi's romance from a few volumes ago; although it's got that funny sequence I mentioned earlier (Megumi, desperate for a date to her mother's concert, sits outside with a "boyfriend wanted" sign) it's still too long for its own good, especially coming so long after the thread's introduction that I barely remembered it existed to begin with.
In Summary:
While not exactly another volume of pure filler -- the stories here do connect with the series's existing mishmash of minor plot threads, albeit several volumes too late -- the net effect is basically the same: a lot of time spent on disjoint story arcs with relatively little payoff.  Maybe Minami is going somewhere with all of this; but until I can tell where that is, I recommend that readers keep skipping this one over.

Mania Grade: D+
Art Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translation Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 200
ISBN: 978-1421531717
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: S.A. (a.k.a. Special A)