English: Special A
Synonyms: S.A., S・A, SA, S A, S.A, S•A, Incomplete Chorus, Food Paradise
Japanese: Ｓ・Ａ スペシャル・エー
Published: Jul 2004 to Mar 2, 2009
Authors: Minami, Maki (Story & Art)
Serialization: Hana to Yume
Score: 8.231 (scored by 8582 users)
1 indicates a weighted score
2 based on the top manga page.
Popular Tagscomedy romance school life shoujo
Feb 22, 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
Mar 9, 2009
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
Jul 29, 2009
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
Nov 9, 2008
I am so relieved that I did. That was in February 2008, and now SA has become my favourite manga of all time. It starts off like your average shoujo, but as I read more I was just so surprised how much I enjoyed the story and characters. It's very well written, every chapter is entertaining and the re-read value is very high for me. Needless to say I've done so quite a few times. :) The more I read the more obsessed I get with this manga...!
I usually find it hard to get into shoujo manga... I'll read them, but the cliches and events that happen over and over again makes me feel like all these manga artists are just copying each other's plots in order to show off their art. The stories feel empty. SA was different for me. I feel like it strays from the norm of the main female quickly falling for the main male and that was what grabbed me. It isn't just that, though, SA is different in a number of ways. There's a lot of characters and Maki Minami eventually gives all of them attention, and they all get their own stories. I really enjoyed that. Instead of everything revolving around Hikari and Kei at all times, she offers a good balance of character spotlight.
As far as art goes, I really didn't like it at first. It certainly has its moments, but it's nothing gorgeous like, for example, Arina Tanemura can pull off. But to compensate, the story quality can't even be compared. I now have a soft spot for Minami's artwork because of how much I love SA, it doesn't need to be beautiful at all times. (though I'll admit I'm one of those people guilty of buying manga just for lovely artwork. xD)
And Hikari is just an awesome character for a shoujo heroine. She always cracks me up with how ridiculous she is, and that's part of why her relationship with Kei is so much fun. 8D
I'm really, highly enjoying SA right now, and am excited for future chapters to see what other dramatic events Minami can pull out of nowhere. ;D I'd recommend this manga (not so much the anime, the manga is much longer and much better in my opinion) who happens to like romance (for there's plenty to be had!) or just a really amusing story with characters that are easy to become attached to. read more
Feb 16, 2008
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 ^_^
May 14, 2009
To summarize everything up before you get bored of the long explanation coming up next: if you liked the anime version, you'll LOVE the manga even MORE! Proceed if you really want to waste minutes of your life to know what's on my crazy little mind.
First, the manga was actually better drawn than the anime. The characters are so unbelievably skinny in the anime (I think) and Kei didn't look as handsome as he was in the manga. For me it was unfair that I found Ryuu, Jun and even Yahiro more appealing than the lead guy (in the anime), of course in the manga Kei was putting up a better fight. :D
Second, the scenes from the manga were WAY better than what happened in the anime. It will make hopeless romantics like I am itching to read the next chapter without pause. Character developments were pretty good in the manga too.
Third, the ending of the anime left something to be desired and was albeit so WEIRD too. I mean, Kei and Hikari were flying then! I know they were inhuman from the start but flying was just so unrealistic I really had to just laugh it off. But in fairness to the anime, the manga's end was so anticlimactic and a disappointment to me. It was like the end was hastened and didn't quite have a romantic feel (though what Kei did for Hikari was VERY romantic). XD
Fourth (I know this turned out to be a long list), I really hope there's a season 2 for the anime 'cause the manga continues on very well from where the anime ended (which was the main reason for me to read the manga in the first place; I wanted more from Special A). If not, the manga is DEFINITELY better.
Lastly (No, I'm not quite finished yet), the manga didn't just concentrate on the two leads' romance. It also had the romance of the other characters inserted which made the story better. In the anime, only Ryuu didn't get a happily ever after (each member of the SA found their soul mates [even the twins and Tadashi]). I really felt sorry for him there,so at least, in the manga, he even had two girls falling for him. :D That isn't necessarily a very important point to go into but it just means that the story in the manga was nicer than the anime. read more
May 20, 2010
(but no worries about ending spoilers. I haven't gotten there yet ^-^)
For me this series started out like a ton of other manga that I've read before. A highly skilled and well-rounded female character out to compete with the one person she can never defeat: the flawless bishonen who can do anything better than she can with little to no effort. Having recently read Kaichou wa Maid-sama in particular (yes I know which one was published first but that doesn't change the order in which I read them) I can see so many parallels and typical cliches that made me think that there was little point in reading the series.
Story (7): All my prejudices aside, I started reading the series anyways. For the most part I'd have to say that the storyline so far is pretty typical-- which isn't necessarily a bad thing. For shoujo manga lovers out there I'm pretty sure that this series would provide all those sweet and romantic moments of interest. In my opinion the storyline isn't anything special that would make me scream my approval of it. One thing that I will acknowledge though (spoiler ahead) is the moment when Hikari jumped in to protect Sui from danger. When Sui ran off looking for help I figured: "Oh great, the damsel in distress needs to get beaten up for her prince to save her." Needless to say I was pleased when that proved NOT to be the case. Thank goodness this mangaka can give her female characters a backbone of their own.
Art (8): The art is pretty standard shoujo stuff I guess. I think it's pretty decent considering when it was published. The drawings are good and neat but I don't think the character designs would particularly stand out from other manga I've read.
Character (7): I was torn between rating the characters up or down for awhile, particularly when thinking about Kei and Hikari. Even though they are the main characters of the series I feel that there's nothing special about them. They're just another simple manga couple. As I'd mentioned earlier I was grateful that the mangaka gave Hikari a backbone to defend herself. Likewise I'm glad that Akira, Hikari's female friend, also has a defined and independent personality, but other than that I don't feel anything amazing about the characters. Hikari's clueless traits towards Kei is typical and, quite frankly, I find more annoying than amusing.
Overall I think that this seems to be a pretty good, if not slightly overdone, series (8). The plot doesn't seem to be anything very original, but I found myself enjoying it nonetheless (9). I would recommend it for shoujo manga lovers looking for a good series involving romance, particularly since it is already complete (because the last thing anyone wants to do is wait a month for a suspenseful moment to end). read more
Aug 28, 2009
Some may consider Hikari unrealistic but anyone who was obsessed with school and working hard on that side would be able to understand her better, just like with anything love has to be learned and experienced or you don't understand it. So I think this is a really good coming of age story, it shows what it's like for a teenage girl who wasn't looking for love and what she does once it finds her. Plus you can't beat the silliness that's added. Between stick figure drawings and the turn-about scenes that leave characters dumbfounded with great experssions, you'll definitely be busting a gut with this series.
Actually I felt it wasn't long enough in a sense, I think it would have been better if Maki had lept ahead in the last few chapters and did a few bits with the characters after High School, after all we never stop maturing and it would have been nice to see how the characters turned out as adults. Plus I felt the characters needed to be developed a bit more, they sometimes fall a bit flat and you fall out of the story, remembering that you are reading a story, I prefer to get sucked in and be apart of the world as if it were real. I feel Maki forgot to give them more depth at points because she was too busy focusing on the comedy.
However, I think I'll always pick this manga up whenever I'm feeling down or lonely because it definitely lifts my spirits with its lightheartedness and comedy. read more
May 23, 2008
It has a kind of a feeling I get from Ouran as every character is formalized and steoretyped in one class of being exteremly diffrent (Every-Aspect-Perfect Kei, Hikari who is just tries and tries more, Tadashi who only responds to Food, Akira with a good taste and so on...) Manga was just really to much fun to read that in just one night I read all 34 chapters and now really anxious to get my hands on the next volume :)
Anyway I would recommend this to anyone who just at least enjoys a litte bit romance. read more
Oct 16, 2011
It's a high school story about great friends, troublesome encounters, family dilemmas, and love, but love for nearly every character, which is great cause you won't end up feeling bad for anyone cause the characters in this manga are lovable to where you admire all of them.
Even the characters you disliked will change your opinion about them by the end.
The seven highest ranking students of Hakusenkan High School are placed into a separate program then the rest of the school, and are known as the Special A class, S.A. for short. Kei, Hikari, Jun, Megumi, Tadashi, Akira, Ryuu, (ranked in order 1st-7th place,) are the seven people who are the central focus of the manga. You'll eventually come to know all of their stories, and sympathize with them. And the characters are all different, they have their own personalities. Many of the seven have known each other for a greater time than others because of their families. They're basically the children of wealthy families, with the exception of Hikari. On later chapters there will be new characters who are introduced and become an important part to the story, but they're all related to the S.A. students somehow.
You can say Kei and Hikari are generally your main characters, but the story doesn't take it's main focus on just these two, their love progression is a main part of this manga though, as well as Hikari's constant attempt to challenge Kei due to the fact that she's never truly defeated him in anything, which enrages her.
These friends would go through any lengths to remain together, which is shown frequently in the manga.
The art gets better, it's starts sketchy, but it improves tremendously. And the first few chapters seem annoying because the concept of the S.A. class is constantly repeated as if you didn't understand it the first time, but hang in there, it's worth the read. :D
It's altogether a story on great friendships, family troubles, and true love. In others words, why not read it? What do you have to lose? It's not a cheesy love story, and the shyness of approaching the love relations are realistic. read more