The twelfth volume of S*A lands with another resounding "meh".
Writer/Artist: Maki Minami
Translation: JN Productions
Adapatation: Amanda Hubbard
What They Say
Special A is in an uproar! The conservatory is set to be demolished unless the SA class wins the Elite High School Student Tournament. Hikari is enthusiastic to be in the competition, but Kei and Ryu are at odds over a mysterious girl! Will they be able to come together and defeat their old nemesis Kokusen High, or is this end of Special A?!
The first story arc in this volume involves the Special A students taking part in a school festival tournament to keep their conservatory from being torn down.
... and with that single plot point, the rest of my review is almost superfluous. After reading that sentence, the vast majority of manga readers (or, heck, people who've seen enough 80s comedies) should already have a good idea where Minami's going with this volume and whether they want to stick around for it. G'night, folks.
Well, okay -- to be fair, readers shouldn't come across with the impression that this one derivative arc encompasses the entire volume: in reality, it's only carried through about halfway of the book's page count. The other three arcs (at a single chapter apiece) do, however, evoke the same high-concept narrative style where you can tell exactly which path the story will take just based on a basic one-sentence summary. Hikari tries to figure out what in her past caused her older brother to lose his nerve; Kei's family hosts Hikari for a night, making his younger brother jealous; as part of a convoluted plan to stay in Japan, Kei has to woo a shareholder's granddaughter with Japanese food. These stories are carried out in such a paint-by-numbers way that it's not really necessary to elaborate on them any more. At the risk of spoiling things through cynicism, I doubt that anyone in the audience really questions whether the Special A students can save their conservatory, whether Hikari can make things normal with her brother, whether Hikari can win over Kei's brother, or whether Kei can convince a random girl that Japanese food is delicious.
But like last volume, I have a hard time bringing myself to actually hate Special A for being what it is: a mediocre, formulaic shoujo comedy. It's not offensively incompetent in its execution -- it just happens that it's increasingly coming into conflict with my preferences for strong, novel storylines. For some readers, familiarity in manga is their bread and butter; more power to them. They'll probably get much more of a kick out of Special A than I am.
This volume, even moreso than the two I've read before, plays really close to high school comedy tropes, making no excuses for demanding the reader to suspect their disbelief for some of the illogic in these setups. Read (or not) according to your tolerance for predictability.