Honestly, I'm kind of sad about how little attention this work gets on this site compared to some of the other Chinese works that started around the same time - like Chu Feng for instance. In my (probably somewhat biased) opinion, this is what a good Chinese manhua should be. That's the reason why I just had to post a review, despite how terrible I am at reviews in general.
The story takes place in the late 1990s in a polluted city with lots of heavy industry. The main characters are in grade five, attending an elementary school which, is, as noted by Ming in
the opening chapter "the worst school in the entire city". To add to the misery, the students happen to be in "the worst class of their entire grade", namely the 5(3) class.
This class is made up entirely of "sponsored students" who come from family backgrounds of low socioeconomic status. They are viewed with disdain by their fellow peers, and over the course of their elementary education, they have slowly grown to live up to these expectations of being stereotypical problem students that no instructor wants to willingly teach. As such, most of the students have little hope that anything would change in the future. Some even think that if the class were to disband and if the students were distributed to the other four classes in their grade, things might get better.
All of this changes when, one fateful day, a normally quiet and reserved female student by the name of Hua stands up in the middle of her class and announces that she will be the new class president. After a very physically violent struggle, she successfully claims her title and proceeds to crown herself the empress/queen of her class. This change of leadership sparks a chain of events that will empower the students to rise up against their stigmatization.
Thus begins a heart-warming, humorous, and action packed tale about a group of elementary students fighting for change in an unjust society. What initially begins as an innocent wish to become the best class in their grade evolves into a struggle the against corrupt authorities. Friendships are forged, tragic backstories are uncovered, and people are permanently changed. This is ultimately a story about change, growth, and reform.
I really liked this story for how it captured the nature of the school system in the 1990s, which is still true for some poorer parts of the country even today. I also liked the character development that took place. The drawing style could be a little more consistent especially for the first 30 or so chapters (then again, I did read the whole thing online so the published version is probably better). The storyline also starts off a little random and disconnected, but most of it smoothes out very well after the initial chapters. Overall, I have little criticism of the piece as it's quite beautifully done.