Rating: 4/5 – 21 Jump Street for the Yuri Crowd.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.
“To make this manga,” creator Milk Morinaga says in the afterward to the first volume “I basically took all my favorite things and mashed them together.” Her “favorite things” in this case are high school girls, yuri (girl’s love), and police dramas. Put them together and you get Gakuen Polizi, a series that’s just puzzling enough in this first volume to hook me into wanting to know the rest of the story.
Puzzling, you ask? Well, yes. Having read Morinaga’s earlier releases from Seven Seas (Girl Friends and Kisses, Sighs and Cherry Blossoms Pink) (both worth checking out, by the way), I felt I knew what to expect out of this book when it showed up on my review stack. Eager young polizi (undercover cop) Sasami Aoba wants nothing more than to be a champion of justice. She’s bright, bubbly, and cute as a button, so naturally she’s paired up with Sakuraba Midori, a solemn, by-the-books, no-nonsense polar opposite to her. Given that they’re both assigned to the one school where nothing of interest ever happens, it should only be a matter of time before the ice breaks down between them and they’ll probably be holding hands by the end of the first book, right?
Well…no, actually. Gakuen Polizi seems as much if not more focused on the police drama side of the story as it is the yuri aspects. Sure, there’s moments where Sasami begins to see Sakuraba as something more than a sourpuss (and vice versa) but the real meat of the book deals with topics like sexual assault and vigilante justice, peppered with the ongoing idea that Sakuraba and Sasami may not be partners all that long, given the nature of their work. Sakuraba herself has a very dark secret in her past only hinted at here – something she did caused a lot of people to get hurt – and it’s touches like this that bring a different look and feel to this book, which yuri fans may find refreshing (or possibly turn them off right away).
Morinaga assures us again in the afterword that most of the drama will be romance related, but I’m hoping she takes her time in getting to that point. Her artwork, as always, is perfectly suited to whatever situation she’s writing about. Playfully cute when it needs to be, but much more detailed and purposeful when the drama begins to set in. It’s also worth noting that she drew Sasami and Sakuraba with her two favorite hairstyles to draw, and you get a sense of glee when she talks about how difficult it was getting Sakuraba’s hair the way she wanted it. In something like manga where many aspects are expected to conform to type, it’s great to see someone creating something they truly want to the way they truly want to.
Gakuen Polizi is perhaps the perfect book for anyone tired of the usual things they’ve come to expect out of a yuri manga. It blends the tropes from that genre with police drama basics to create something a little bit different. Sasami and Sakuraba are interesting characters we still don’t know much about by the end of the first volume, and I believe that’s done purposefully by Morinaga. We’re not meant to know all the secrets of this book just yet, because why keep reading if we did? I plan to be back for volume two, and I believe if you pick this book up, you’ll be right there with me.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow – firstname.lastname@example.org
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