Have you ever known someone who was better than you at everything you did? Hikari does. She's known Kei since they were both six years old and he's surpassed her at everything. Now they are the top two students in an extremely prestigious high school, with Kei holding firmly to that number one position, and Hikari is still determined to beat him, no matter what it takes.
Volume 1: Mikansei Chorus
Volume 11: Shoku no Miyako (Food Paradise)
Special A was published in English by VIZ Media under the Shojo Beat imprint from November 6, 2007 to November 2, 2010. The manga also received two drama CD adaptations on February 23, 2007 and June 18, 2008.
I enjoy the fact that this story is not totally focused on a girl who has a crush on a boy (like so many shojo titles out there). I like it when a girl first feels bitter towards the boy and then slowely falls in love. Those, to me, are the cutest twists of all. Every side story involving other characters are also fun to tie into the story.
Neh...not the best I've come across. The art starts sloppy, but then gets better and better. However, the artwork of one chapter may not be drawn as good as another, more earlier one. Sometimes one chapter will be released and it'll look like the artwork was rushed. Then the next chapter will come out and it has much better art. This cycle continuously repeats.
The manga-ka has a very good way of involving almost each and every character that is introduced. Of course, Hikari and Kei are the main characters that are focused on the most, but the other characters get their moments to shine too. I think Maki Minami has done a good job of developing each of them, whether they are S.A students or not.
-It's an ongoing series spanning over 80 chapters so far. I love longer stories!
-A story with comedy and an actual plot is enjoyable to keep up with.
-Cute moments (whether they are romantic or not) make me want to read it over and over.
Non-constant artwork, good characters, a storyline that isn't too romantically mushy-mushy, and lots of competition in almost all areas. Those sum up Special A for me.read more
Special A is truly something of a treat for readers of all genres. Since I'm more of a shoujo reader, I'm going to focus on that aspect, but it's kind of impossible to not point out the outrageous humor which laces every single panel of SA.
Most importantly, this story couldn’t possibly have ran for 99 chapters like it did if it were JUST about two people falling love, no matter HOW dense one party was portrayed. So while the various romances which keep popping up are significant in keeping the story light, more pressing adolescent issues and elements are dealt with as well, lending this hilarious tale depth and longevity.
The story starts out slow for our lead couple, because even though it's painfully obvious to the entire class, Hikari, our very intensely competitive and considerate to a fault heroine, is dense about Kei's intentions. While Kei constantly keeps her on her toes often labeling her Miss Rank Two and challenging her to make her do as he wishes all the time, he is very sweet and besotted to an adorable degree with her pigheadedness. After clearly confessing his emotions at least three times over, Hikari finally gets the point even though this journey of “when-will-she?!” is tantalizingly played out, with Kei's dreamy eyelashes always making your breath catch. Their further journey is perhaps more comical with Hikari being awkward at intimacy and Kei playfully overt about it, chasing her about and taking on Akira's equally outspoken affection for "her angel".
That brings me to another point. I personally loved Akira's relationship with Hikari and her personality towards girls the most. Who wouldn’t want to be molly coddled by an onee-sama type character who is an excellent cook, kicks some major boy-ass, and it always the firs to jump to your rescue! It's so novel and vitalizing to the entire plot. As are the other SA members, each of whom gets plenty of panel space to themselves and their respective lives. You realize that even though a girl is so confident and talented, and constantly beating up the carefree nature freak, she still hesitates to confess her feelings because she is capable of the most shoujo of traits, vulnerability. While all stereotypes are cheerfully mocked in this story, none of the aggravating ones are explored such as weepy females, overbearing bishies or trite misunderstandings clearing up within the volume.
Friendship, cementing old ones and forging new ones, is another area which Special A specializes in. Every possible kind of relationship is exhibited in this series, which almost always culminates into romance. But each starts off as an awkward and inimitable bond between two characters which gradually matures and strengthens as they face trials and tribulations together and become somewhat symbiotic later on. Be it the confidante/blossoming love between Megumi and Yahiro, the tempestuous (and somewhat abusive!) bond labeled “love” between Akira and Tadashi, the unlikely friendship Ryuu strikes up with Finn, the ambiguously reverent bond Kei shares with Aoi… I could go on and on! Special A excels in making each such relationship rich and multilayered, leaving no aspect shallow or unexplored.
The art oh the art! It's splendid! While the mangaka was probably saving time by drawing stick figures and round headed matchstick men, I think I like those geometrically challenged species so much more than the dreamy Kei and Hikari sketches. They're friggin' hilarious! The poses they constantly strike and the action sequences which are liberally sprinkled across each chapter really make you want to devour them as soon as possible, but to relish them slowly at the same time. Characters sometimes have little internal monologues which verge on slapstick and you have no choice but to break into a guffaw when Hikari competes with Kei on who can be the most romantic and gets one upped each time! (Warning to easily moved readers: Kei may not look it, but he is THEE most romantic, devoted, besotted, gentle and tempting boyfriend on the planet!)
Expressions: Yes, expressions in Special A warrants a whole separate category from Art, because part of the reason SA is as big as it is, lies in the rip roaring, fall-off-your-chair, hit-your-head-hard, realize-your-pants-are-wet-coz-you-laughed-so-hard, but-continue-shaking-in-mirth-anyway, expressions that Minami Maki is so gifted at sketching! Each expression is unique, evokes an intense reaction from the reader and is completely tailor made for the scene’s atmosphere, which makes the re-reading factor for SA skyrocket.
While it's obvious the mangaka has given us well chalked out characters, I do wish Hikari could have had her way once in a while, and win at something from Kei! That girl is relentless in her pursuit even though she knows the outcome each time! Each and every such small feature in this story makes you want to read it over and over again. A definite 10!read more
Special A is for me, the definition of an average shoujo series.
We have Hikari, an initially refreshing female lead with a certain wide-eyed innocence and a strong desire to defeat her eternal rival Takishima Kei. Hikari’s got fighting spirit, something that is so often lacking in shoujo heroines of late. On the other hand she’s incredibly dense, a trait which becomes all the more prevalent as the manga progresses much to my chagrin. An important plot device is that the students in the SA class are the crème de la crème of an already prominent school for the wealthy. We are not so much as shown, but rather told that these characters are of high intelligence. Of course they all get high marks on exams but when it comes to basic comprehension skills in real life situations our characters often come up shorthanded. What was once endearing in Hikari becomes stale after one has read through several volumes of Special A. Other than Hikari, the rest of the cast is fairly stock. Kei is appealing in that smirking bishounen sort of sense but his character falls ultimately flat. Maki uses her other characters as means to extend the series, adding multiple couples to the point where almost no one goes single in the end. Even the conniving Yahiro who acted as antagonist in earlier volumes is reduced to a rather underdeveloped love interest for Megumi. When all’s said and done the characters don’t feel fleshed out enough despite the manga’s length.
Again, this is the definition of an average shoujo. Pure hearted girl attends wealthy school, oblivious to her long time rival’s affection for her. Misunderstandings and shenanigans commence as the two try to work out their feelings for one another. Expect lots of competitions between the two and the repeated use of the running gag of Hikari being ranked number 2 to Kei’s 1. Special A, aside from being a tad on the melodramatic side also relies heavily on comedy. There are many absurd situations for which one would have to put aside their sense of disbelief to enjoy. I myself got a few chuckles from the slapstick comedic elements featured during many of the competitions. In later volumes however, there are a lot of plot twists featuring conflicts that feel quite forced. The issue with Finn for instance, in which Hikari discovers that the “Prince” is actually a girl and is more or less imprisoned for discovering the secret borderlines on silly and needless. In this instance an absurd situation is used for the sake of drama and plot device rather than for light-hearted comedy and it fails to hold any kind of believability. Ultimately there are several arcs which could have been cut out entirely without much of value being lost. Perhaps if Minami Maki had skimmed the series down by removing clunky side plots with no real impact on the story, this manga would have been a little more enjoyable for me. As it is however, Special A dragged on and on, repeating similar jokes, similar conflicts and similar interactions between Hikari and Kei. When the series came to a close I was left unfulfilled and a little bit disappointed that a manga I had once enjoyed had become so stale and repetitive.
Minami Maki’s art is decent enough. It just doesn’t really stand out. Her character designs are often a little too similar and there isn’t a ton of distinction. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with that. I’m actually just thankful that she doesn’t draw eyes in the same style that another famous mangaka does. Aside from character design, Minami’s backgrounds go almost unnoticed. To her credit, the little stick figure drawings so often used in moments of humour are quite hilarious to look at. She’s good at utilizing simple sketches for slapstick comedy.
At its best this manga is mildly amusing and heart warming in that “doki doki” shoujo manga sense. At its worst it feels redundant, silly and utterly cliché. Special A is a fun series that just started to run out of steam and ideas long before it finished. It’s nothing outstanding in terms of art, story or characters but it’s not particularly bad either. If you’re looking for a nice light-hearted shoujo series to pick up and you can look past a certain amount of banality then by all means go for this one. If however, you’re after something a little more substantial and semi-realistic you’d be better off picking up a copy of NANA or Honey and Clover.
For the record I don’t consider 5 a bad score. Merely average as it was meant to be used for.read more
Ok, lets explain my points a bit:
The story is one I hadn't encountered in either manga or anime yet, it keeps on amazing me what happens and it doesn't grow old at all.
You can't get perfect but this is more than good enough.
How the characters unfold is quite something but we still have to see something from quite a few people, so far it has been limited to hikari and kei, while they sometimes talk about a person's past, it always ends up getting connected to hikari or kei(often its both)
It will make you laugh
It will make you say: aaww so cute, aww so nice,..(you get the picture..)
It will make you doubt if you have studied enough.. and what on earth is a decent grade these days(realy, it does)
This is one of those that I never get tired of, I have read other works from this author and this one is the best(not that he has even a few..more like 1 or 2 but still)
If you like or don't like this style, I don't care, just give it a try. Its unique ^_^ read more