by Melissa Harper,

Gakuen Heaven

Gakuen Heaven
Keita Itou received a mysterious letter inviting him to attend the elite BL Academy, a prestigious school attended by the brightest young men in the nation. On the way to his first day, his bus encounters a freak accident that throws him in the middle of the two most popular guys in school. In a sea of amazing young men, Keita struggles to find out what makes him unique, and how he can possibly deserve to be treated as an equal by the boys of BL, especially the handsome student council president that he has his eye on.

Gakuen Heaven, a one shot manga based on a popular franchise of dating games and novels, is a fairly typical entry as far as harem stories go. There are plenty of stock characters, cliché storylines, and tried-and-true plots to make anyone feel comfortable. This is not new ground being covered, but it reads like walking a familiar path; you know where you are going, and you just enjoy the scenery as you travel.

The main character of Gakuen Heaven, Keita Itou, is a standard harem hero. There isn't anything special about him. These characters are uniformly un-special. Sure, it makes it easier to identify with him initially, but how many of all of us un-special people were made the center of attention when transferring to a new school? The ability to identify with him goes away rather quickly, due to the amount of attention he gets from his decidedly special classmates. Enter the stock characters. If it gives you any clue, two of the characters are nicknamed the King and Queen, with the King being the major love interest of the story. The Queen in a typical ultra-girly bishonen, to the point of calling other guys “honey.” The school is stockpiled with a selection of characters for every taste, although most of these characters aren't covered hardly at all, just about every cliché is represented on the campus of BL Academy.

At least they look good. Again, there is nothing groundbreaking in the design of these characters, as each is meant to have certain characteristics. However, there is something in the art style of You Higuri that is absolutely captivating. The designs are standard and generic, but the execution of those designs is fabulous. There is a personality in the loving way these characters are rendered that makes them spring to life. This is especially true in the way the eyes are drawn; the eyes of each character are so lovely that one can spend a good amount of time just looking at and appreciating the close angles on the eyes.

Plotwise, there isn't much new going on either. The name of the school is a bit clever; it is called Bell Liberty Academy, or BL Academy for short, and the reader is obviously meant to take the mental jump of thinking it stands for “Boys Love” Academy. But the situation and the plot are old and familiar. There are three distinct sections to the plot in this manga. First, Keita is sent on an errand, which is essentially just introducing him, and the reader, to the wide variety of sexy men on campus. After that, the drama sets in, when it turns out that he was brought to the school by mistake, and is expelled. Of course, every guy in the cast is already in love with him, so they go about finding ways to prevent his being expelled. The third segment is a contest, where pairs of boys must compete for the prize of having one wish granted. For Keita, and his new admirers, that wish is for him to be able to stay at BL Academy, so the competition is more to discover who will win the honor of rescuing Keita than anything else.

As cute as the storyline is, this is still a yaoi novel. The content isn't spread out over the book; with the exception of one scene, it is all contained at the very end. The sex scene is rather like a bonus; it is the reward the characters get for completing the contest, and the reader gets for getting through the book. Fairly graphic in nature, it is at least not violent, and is as sweet as a sex scene could possibly be.

This novel looks pretty good for a Blu publication; sometimes Blu books seem a little on the low side of production values, but this one is nice and thick, with good quality paper and inking. It even includes a color splash page at the beginning. There are no extras to speak of, and a sound effect dictionary would have come in handy, as several sound effects are left un-translated.

The description of the pieces of this novel may not sound like much, but they come together to make a fairly enjoyable product. The main character is a good, likeable guy, drawn with loving care by an artist who enjoys her work. The story, while a rehash of many stories gone before, is still cute and enjoyable, and at the bottom of the last page, you can say that you had a good time reading the pages before it. It won't change your life, but it will lighten half an hour of it.

Overall : B
Story : C
Art : A

+ Lovingly rendered characters, just a really cute book
Totally cliche story, stock characters abound

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Story & Art: You Higuri

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Gakuen Heaven (manga by You Higuri)

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