By Syougo Kinugasa and Tomoseshunsaku. Released in Japan by Media Factory. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Timothy MacKenzie. Adapted by Jessica Cluess.
Tempting as it is to paste my review of the first volume in for the second and see if anyone notices, I will make an effort to say new things. The series’ strengths and weaknesses remain the same. It’s compulsively readable, always a good thing. Its premise can be teeth-grindingly annoying, especially when everyone turns into a vicious sadist for no reason, with a lot of “ha ha, you will fail forever now” sneering. I’m still not entirely clear if this school has a purpose beyond abusing 1/4 of its student body, and I suspect this is not a question I’m going to get answered anytime soon. We do get a couple of new characters here, though, including one who I actually did not want to punch in the face, which is a monstrous improvement from the first book. Sadly, she isn’t in Class D, meaning I am probably out of luck unless we get a spinoff series or something. Plus honestly, shee likely has a dark side too.
The other new character introduced is Sakura, who isn’t annoying so much as passive. In fact, her very passivity is the problem, as she’s also an important witness to an assault by Class D hothead Sudo on three Class C students. He now faces suspension, of course, and every single thing over the course of the entire book does not help his cause. First off, he’s claiming self-defense, but that’s hard to prove when you beat up three guys and you’re fine. Secondly, no one believes him anyway because his first response is to punch everything. Of course, if Sudo gets suspended Class D will lose the few points they gained from the first book (which aren’t given to them as money, by the way – it’s implied they never will be). Can the rest of the class overcome their antipathy towards Sudo and apathy in general and help clear his name? Or will they need to be a bit more… creative?
As I said, there’s also a girl from Class B that we briefly met in the first book but who gets a genuine introduction here. Ichinose is so refreshingly normal that I was almost crying in happiness. She’s friendly and outgoing without (so far) having a scheming dark side like Kushida. She tries to use Ayanokouji to help her with a problem (girl is confessing to her, need a pretend boyfriend). She ends up being of great help to them in the climax of the book. Really, I want her to be the star. She’s certainly more fun to read than grumpy Horikita, who spends the book attempting to help Sudo while being miserable about it, or our “hero” Ayanokouji, whose desire to be average and not stand out is so great that even his own inner narration lies to us – frequently he talks about Kushida as if he knows nothing about her secrets, and there are other points where I suspect he’s straight up lying to the reader. Which is the point – their teacher is trying to get Horikita to figure out why he’s like this – but again, it’s not what I’d call fun.
I can see why this is popular – I sped through it very quickly, and want to read more. This despite the fact that I was frowning most of the time and occasionally wanted to slam the book against a wall. Classroom of the Elite is a war between the writing and the characterization, and it may take more than two volumes to figure out who’s winning.