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[S.A]
AKA: Special A, S・A~スペシャル・エー~ (full Japanese title)
Genre: Teenage romantic comedy / drama
Length: Television series, 24 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: R1 DVD from Sentai Filmworks
Content Rating: 7+ (nothing objectionable)
Related Series: None
Also Recommended: His and Her Circumstances
Notes: Based on the manga by Maki Minami, which ran in Hakusensha's shoujo mangazine Hana to Yume.
Rating: Four StarsFour StarsFour StarsFour Stars

S.A

Synopsis

Ever since she lost a fight to Kei Takishima as a child, Hikari Hanazono has been obsessed with beating him at something - ANYTHING - but she always ends up as Number 2. Now she continues her efforts to beat him as a fellow member of the Special A, a group of extremely bright (and with the exception of Hikari, very wealthy) teenagers who spend their school days mainly hanging out with each other. The group must also face challenges from other students who resent their privileged status, as well as personal issues (including budding romances among its members). Will the group survive? Will it ever dawn on Hikari that despite his teasing, Kei is actually in love with her?


Review

Yes, this is a group of seven kids, six of them from wealthy families, who mainly sit in a conservatory and have tea and snacks all day. It's rather understandable that many in the student body resent them (although they have a cult following among some of the students). It's also hard sometimes to sympathize with Kei, who's endlessly calling Hikari "Miss Number Two."

On the other hand, the show emphasizes that these kids are really misfits, sometimes because of their wealth. It's also emphasized that they are "the real deal" academically and, with Kei and Hikari at least, physically as well, not being afraid to meet the challenges they are given; but all this is mostly in the first (and to my mind lesser) two disks of the four-disk series.

Truth to tell, I love Hikari as a character: she's endlessly cheerful and exuberant, and never lets herself be discouraged no matter how many times she's ended up in the Number 2 slot. She's drawn rather beautifully too, except for the thing with the legs- for whatever reason, all the characters in this show have the longest legs I've ever seen. Some of the other characters are rather weird: Akari, the girl with a Yuri-style crush on Hikari (though she also has a guy she's interested in, as is emphasized later); and Ryu, an animal lover (to a rather extreme degree) who occasionally serves as surrogate parent to two of the younger members of the group, Jun and Megumi. Megumi, by the way, never talks, preferring to write all her comments on a sketchpad; she says she's saving her voice for singing, though at close range her singing apparently has the explosive force of a small nuke. Also on hand are Tadashi, the token nice guy/slob; Kei himself, your typical taciturn, cynical, and yet deep down good-guy type; and Yahiro Saiga, one of the group's main opponents, who's Kei if his cynicism ever crossed the line from healthy to unhealthy.

The first two disks, as I said, are mainly concerned with the Hikari/Kei rivalry, and with external challenges to the group. But the second set is a different matter- having set the scene, and given the two main players their time on stage, Disk 3 starts developing the rest of the cast, starting with Akira, giving her a whole new depth. And while the "secret" of Jun was rather silly, the episode featuring his sister Megumi was wonderful, developing her from a gimmick delivering written one-liners into a real person (and yes, she does finally actually talk). And Yahiro turns out to be one of the most nuanced "villains" I've ever seen. Some of this show is wonderfully written, period.

This is also one of the few comedies I've ever seen that actually made me laugh. Mostly it's a combination of one-liners plus sight gag, but the episode where Hikari tries to cook (the third episode) was the one that broke the ice for me. And Hikari joins the long list of anime women who are skilled fighters, terrible cooks, and have the same first and last initial (HH joins KK and NN).

Speaking of violent women by the way, those who are turned off by same be warned: with the exception of Megumi, all the principal females in this series - Hikari, Akira, and a "Jun love interest" named Sakura - are rather prone to violence toward men. Akira's relationship with a certain member of the cast will remind viewers a lot of Naru Narusegawa's with a certain member of the cast of LOVE HINA, and with good reason.

I laughed a lot, I cried a little, and in general had a good time with this show. What else can I say?

The first 2 disks are only three stars-worthy, but the second two are a 4. I've rounded it up, as my math teacher said to. I remember that, and I'm not even Special AAllen Moody

Recommended Audience: Mild violence, but sex-free and, for that matter, even fanservice-free. General audience, though younger kids won't find so much here to interest them.



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (24/24)
S.A © 2008 Maki Minami · Hakusensha / Council of Hakusenkan Gakuen
 
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