Gakuen Alice is an anime series based on Tachibana Higuchi’s manga, which originally appeared within the pages of Hana to Yume magazine. The manga lasted for an impressive ten years, starting life back in February 2003 before finally concluding its run in June 2013. British fans of Japanese cartoons can presently download the subtitle only anime adaptation from the iTunes store or alternatively they can import the twenty six-episode DVD collection from their U.S vendor of choice. At the time of writing United Publications are selling the box set for around £25. The same collection can also be obtained from Amazon third party sellers.
The series stars a ten-year-old girl named Mikan Sakura who is not pleased at the prospect of parting ways with her best friend Hotaru Imai. When Mikan learns that her chum has transferred over to the elite Alice Academy she decides to run away from home in order to pay Hotaru a visit. When Mikan eventually tracks down her pal she discovers the institution’s big secret. Alice Academy is a bit like Hogwarts from the Harry Potter books. Rather than teaching magic to students, the school instead trains pupils who have been born with special abilities. The powers the pupils possess range from flight, mind reading, teleportation and even the skill to turn into a cat girl. In other words it’s the type of university that Professor X would establish if he were Japanese.
Much to Mikan’s joy she is able to enlist at Alice Academy when it’s discovered that she has a special power of her own. Unlike the examples I mentioned above, Mikan’s gift isn’t especially flashy. When in danger she can nullify any Alice power aimed in her direction. My, how lame. That’s nowhere near as cool as transforming into a humanoid feline! Over the quirky show’s duration Mikan is forced to contend with bullies, faculty who have branded her a trouble maker and an outside organisation who is plotting to bring down the school over claims that the academy mistreats the children under its care. Man, where was that group during my comprehensive days? My teachers would often hurl abuse at me just because I didn’t see the point of completing homework assignments.
Overall I have to say that I enjoyed watching Gakuen Alice. It may not be the best show available from the UK iTunes store’s limited anime library, but it’s still entertaining thanks to its slapstick comedy and occasional action sequences. The pigtailed Mikan is a decent protagonist as she tackles the challenges she encounters with a smile on her face (Shinji from Evangelion should be ashamed, even little girls are less whiny than him.) After finishing the show I’m not quite sure why Mikan is so smitten with Hotaru though. Miss Imai often gives her best friend the cold shoulder and sometimes she even smacks Mikan with the bizarre contraptions she fabricates. I suppose when push comes to shove Hotaru does step up to the plate to save her pal… although bribery is sometimes required to persuade her to lend Mikan aid.
My final rating is a three out of five. Although I liked Gakuen Alice I didn’t quite love it, perhaps because it is aimed at a younger crowd. Although I’m informed that the manga gets dark in places, the anime adaptation seems to have removed those elements to appeal to kids who watch wholesome cartoons such as Pokémon. Adults can still find enjoyment in the anime, but they should go into it expecting some silliness. From the juvenile offerings on show I was okay with the school’s mechanical caretakers, but I could have done without the giant chick (that’s a baby chicken not an attractive girl) and the violent Teddy who seems to be the love child of Rupert and Rocky Balboa. Isn’t it funny how my mind works? A stuffed toy with a knockout punch? That’s daft. Underage girls piloting tanks? That makes logical sense to me!