Things that can change us does not necessarily have to be something new.
Gakuen Alice (a.k.a. Alice Academy) is written and illustrated by Tachibana Higuchi. The manga is published by Hakusensha and serialized in Hana to Yume. Aniplex and Group TAC produced the 26-episode anime adaptation of this on 2004.
It is about Sakura Mikan who has a best friend named Imai Hotaru, who left the countryside to enter a prestigious school in Tokyo. Mikan invited herself into the academy Hotaru attended because, well, she is just that clingy. Then, she found out that that school is not an ordinary one; it’s where people with unique abilities — called here as “alice” — are gathered to learn and improve what they got.
The anime’s music and sound do their job of enhancing the scenes and amplifying the emotions of the characters. The OP is entitled Pikapika no Taiyou (Shining Sun) by Ueda Kana, Mikan’s seiyuu. The sequence along with it shows the oddities that this series offers as well as, in a way, the relationships of the characters. The ED is Shiawase no Niji (Rainbow of Happiness) by Ueda Kana and Kugimiya Rie. Here, the sequence shows the close relationship of Mikan and Hotaru. It shows their encounters with different people.
The anime, being heartwarming, lighthearted, and funny, has the feels of one’s usual shoujo anime. It left out the “darker” part of the story from the manga, so it easily caters to younger audiences, though that left a lot of holes for the story. The manga tells more drama, what with more backstories of the characters along with the romance aspect of this story, and more action, as their antagonist is more active in antagonizing the characters. There are still holes left by the end, though, so it frustrates me. And thinking about how there’s romance when they’re only 10 (till 12?) just irritates me now. (They were 17 by the end, but the development and all that romance stuff may be at least good, but I couldn’t just buy their age!)
Now, may I get to the point of rambling about the characters.
Sakura Mikan, the protagonist of the series. She is a clumsy idiot who is clingy to her best friend. She is friendly, caring toward others, and has that cheerful personality that attracts people to her. Even if, initially, she isn’t accepted, she eventually grew on others and became a big deal.
Honestly, even now, I’m torn between regret of knowing even more of the story and gladness that I knew about the other characters when I read the manga. To me, Mikan is bearable in the anime. She has got to be one of my least likeable characters in the whole series. Her being a Mary Sue rubs me in the wrong way. And she is too overpowered. The anime did not cover it, so when I read the manga, I was baffled by its ridiculousness. (Still read it till the end, though.)
Of course, there is Imai Hotaru. She is smart and rational albeit lazy and has the tendency to be rude and arrogant. If there’s something that isn’t likeable about her, to me, it’s her being greedy of money, even at the expense of others. It’s a comic relief, though. Anyway, she may not look it, but she also deeply cares about her friends and shows it in her own way.
She is one of my favorite characters here because of her cool and sass. I love her Baka Gun (and its other versions) which she uses frequently to Mikan. To me, she is the reason why we have this story and why Mikan got her ending by the end of the manga.
Hyuuga Natsume is the male protagonist and the love interest of Mikan. He is smart but rebellious. He has a lot of admirers despite his attitude. Much like Hotaru, he looks cold and indifferent, but he actually cares for his friends a lot. He is blunt, too.
Natsume is that mysterious character with a lot of drama about his past and even his current situation. To me, he is likeable and interesting; I just don’t like him with Mikan. Their story is the common positive and naive girl makes the rebel guy fall in love. Though at times it works on me, I just couldn’t buy it here.
Then, there’s Nogi Ruka, Natsume’s best friend who falls in love with Mikan. He cares for Natsume a lot and defends and protects him when he can. He is more approachable and friendly than Natsume. Ruka is easily bullied by Hotaru as she plots schemes to take lots of photos of him (and even Natsume at times) to sell to his fan girls. He never wins against her, though. (As far as I recall.)
The supporting characters are loveable. Even if not all of them have backstories, they are interesting enough to make headcanons of and about them. A lot of these four main characters’ friends are supportive and loving toward them. I even love most of them much more than Mikan. I enjoyed watching and reading the series because of a lot of them.
Gakuen Alice is a normal shoujo manga. I’m not even going to easily recommend it because of a lot of holes in the story. (The anime is okay, though.) However, even if it’s not that good, I can’t deny the fact that it means a lot to me.
Around 2008, when I learned how to surf the Internet and haven’t read any manga yet, I searched about Ruka and Hotaru because I love their pairing. I ended up reading a fan fiction and since then, I was introduced to the world of even more writing.
Joining a fan fiction site, I mainly focused on the Gakuen Alice archives. Then, I met a lot of different people from my country and even outside. We became friends and talked a lot. I even met personally some of them. I had fun and it’s because of Gakuen Alice. Now, we may all have busy lives, but some still keep in touch. I think we all outgrew GA, as we got into other fandoms, but I know that we can’t ignore the memories we shared.
Oh, and I did so much fan art for this and here are some of them. The quality of the images is bad but I’m too lazy to search for the sketchpads I drew them on to take better pictures. These are drawn some 5-6 years ago so they are crappy. Not that I got so much better at drawing now.
My favorite pairings are Koko and Sumire, Tsubasa and Misaki, Hotaru and Ruka, and Hotaru and Natsume. Persona and Nobara, Kaname and Nobara, Anna and Yuu, Anna and Kitsu, and Sumire and Mochu are interesting to me, too!
If it isn’t obvious enough with the above fan arts, my favorite male character is Koko, though he doesn’t really have his own story. I draw him a lot, though. Oh, and Tsubasa, too! Hotaru is my favorite female character and I ship him with a lot of the guys. I even did the fan arts below. Haha!
Oh, and I also buried myself when I drew one of the fan arts below. It may not be obvious but that’s Natsume and Tsubasa on the left. (Looking at it now, it makes me cringe. It’s so crappy that it’s embarrassing to even think that I allowed others to see it. Now, because it’s been done, I can only laugh as I share it again now. Haha!) Back then, many of the friends I met through this series are fledging fujoshi. I guess that was the start of my tendency to support BL, though.
And here are some more of them.
The ending of the manga series did not satisfy me. It felt rushed. A lot of questions are left unanswered. I may not be able to say that this is on top of my favorite anime list, but I’ve got to say that it’s one of the most meaningful because of the memories I got from it. My boring life was spiced up by meeting people, writing with and for them, and drawing for myself and for others. I may have outgrown Gakuen Alice, but I owe it for the memories and for the changes I had early in my life.