S.A., Volume 1

Maki Minami, Author, Maki Minami, Illustrator . Viz $8.99 (196p) ISBN 978-1-4215-1375-1

This competition manga reinforces traditional gender stereotypes under the guise of school comedy. Hikari has been obsessed with besting fellow student Kei ever since Kei beat her at wrestling when they were six, her first-ever defeat. They’re both the best of the best at their exclusive school, but Hikari’s eternally #2 to his #1. It’s a familiar setup told through lots of closeups, carried by the artist’s skill in capturing realistic expressions. The work’s serial nature is evident in the reintroduction of the characters at the beginning of every chapter, but it’s helpful to keep the various overachievers straight for the reader, although the supporting cast characterization is told, not shown. While the others have elite backgrounds and innate talents, Hikari continues to believe hard work is the only way to succeed, even when her determination loses to Kei’s natural gift of a perfect memory. Hikari’s defeats are supposedly mitigated by Kei’s affection for her. Hikari must learn that no matter how hard she tries, a girl can’t beat a boy. Kei’s interest is held out as a kind of consolation prize, while the girl who goes after the guy she wants is a figure of ridicule, needing to be taught her place. (Nov)

Reviewed on: 11/12/2007
Release date: 11/01/2007
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