Animal Academy Vol. #04 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, August 30, 2010
Release Date: Thursday, March 30, 2000
Fune takes some time off to think over her school experiences and decide on the next step.
Writer/Artist: Moyamu Fujino
Translation: Katherine Schilling
Adaptation: Ysabet MacFarlane
What They Say
Everyone's on edge with Yuichi having left Morimori after the devastating revelation that he isn't actually human. Aside from losing one of her best friends (and maybe something more?), Neko is distraught at how the truth about Yuichi affects her own place at this school for animal shape-shifters. But when she herself decides to leave the academy, it's up to Kotaro to bring her back!
Animal Academy is a series that's really starting to grow on me. I like pleasant, low key stories, and Animal Academy is nothing if not pleasant and low key. The question was whether or not it will be a particularly good pleasant, low key story. After seeing what it could do with this volume, and a little of the last, I think it is. I like it better now than I did when I was reading the first two books. This is not because the series has changed, exactly: it is very much the same warm, comfortable, leisurely-paced school drama with touches of mild comedy, and thank goodness for that. But now it's added something extra. Animal Academy is not different; just a little deeper and even more rewarding.
In the initial volumes Fune was occupied with the usual first-days-of-school concerns. Fitting in, making friends, doing homework, deciding which club to join; nothing out of the ordinary apart from trying to keep everybody from finding out that she's human. These scenes were handled with grace, humour, and charm. The artist has a fine sense of mood--if that's the right word for the ordinary inner world, undisturbed for weeks or months at a time, that no great joy or sorrow can ever keep you out of for very long. Here that mood is disturbed by the sudden disappearance in the last volume. But Animal Academy handles the situation in a way that is atypical and yet absolutely in character for the story it has been telling.
In most manga, and in most stories of any kind, an event like an important character vanishing would be a bombshell. Here's a chance for big drama--let the storm of emotion be unleashed. Most stories nowadays want drama above all else, and drama is concerned mostly with moments. Animal Academy is interested more in sustained mental states than sudden outbursts of feeling. There are tears, yes, especially at first; but the volume is mostly taken up with reflection. Fune has to step back and look at what her days at Animal Academy have meant to her. There have been quite a few days of studying together, helping each other, conversing casually, and getting to know everybody. What do they all add up to? There's nothing dramatic about watching Fune go through her memories and sort out her thoughts. But there is something honest and kind, and ultimately, more moving. Fune gets her answers by going home. This gives us a good look at her family, and it's easy to see that they're a good one. I like the idea of giving Fune a choice between two places where she has people that care about her. But the choice is an important one for her nevertheless, and there won't be any going back for her. She must cross a line drawn in the sand. There are, however, two kinds of lines that can be drawn. In the books most beautiful scene, Fune gets a lesson in these lines from a source that neither she nor anyone else could have expected.
It would be easy to look at a summary of the volume and think that Animal Academy has hit a turning point. What's actually happened is that it's added an element of melancholy reflection to an already enjoyable blend of cuteness, warmth, light comedy and pleasant people. The new mixture is richer, not heavier. It's more personal, at least for the moment, and the art reflects this. What I mostly remember looking back are large-eyed closeups, full of feeling. And, of course, lines drawn in sand.
Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: C-
Text/Translation Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Animal Academy