Manga Review: Shitsurakuen

Author: Naomura Tooru

Year: 2009
Length: 6 Volumes with 23 + 1 Chapters
Scanlation Group: Mako-scans

Genre: Action, Fantasy, Harem, Comedy, School Setting, Duels, Psychological, Yuri
Story: 7/10 (not considering chapter 23 and 24)
Himoto Sora, a strong-willed and protective girl, enters a special elite school called “Utopia Gakuen”, in which all students take part in a virtual reality-like game that was invented by the founders of the school themselves. In this game the boys use the girls as weapons to fight each other in order to gain more strength, a higher status and to ultimately own more weapons. And since the winner of each battle will gain possession of the loser’s weapon, the girls are treated like objects rather than real humans. Upon seeing all the girls suffering from being abused and dominated by the boys, Sora decides to help and protect the ones who are treated like mere objects and become the knight of justice who will change the wrongful rules of this game. Fortunately, thanks to a bug in the game, she, just like all the other boys, receives the device that lets her participate in the game as a fighter and not as a weapon.

I’m not saying that a story like that has never been done before and I’m also aware of the fact that some people might even think that a game like this is just a little too weird, but at least I think that the idea behind this is quite unique and also greatly implemented.
It’s rare for me to fall in love with a story within the first few pages, but Shitsurakuen really shows off what it has to offer from the very start. It was interesting, it was entertaining and best of all, it has a girl kicking some evil guys’ butts. I usually don’t like shounen yuri manga that much, simply because there is often too much random fighting going on, most girls have gigantic boobs and in many cases yuri moments happen randomly and obviously just to hand out some eye candy for the readers. But in this case, the fighting is not just bearable but enjoyable to read, not all girls have humongous breasts and the yuri happening is rather subtle and even comprehensible.
In short this is a really great manga IF you only consider the first 20 chapters. Now you might wonder ‘What is wrong with the last few chapters?’ and answering this is simple. Within the first few chapters the manga had built up a very solid story with great characters and a lot of unexpected but still (somehow) comprehensible twists and turns. So since the manga came across with such a promising storyline, I was expecting the ending to be just as great and positively surprising as the rest of the story was. And we can actually say that I was especially surprised with what I read in chapter 23, but it was definitely not a positive surprise. In fact, the ending was so bad and the author received so many bad comments about this, that he had to completely rewrite it, resulting in chapter 24, which was definitely better than the prior ending but it still is quite unsatisfying. And that is the reason why I simply pretend that neither chapter 23 nor chapter 24 ever existed. I loved this manga way too much to let that shitty ending ruin the whole story for me, so let’s all just pretend it never existed in the first place.
Besides the messed up ending, here are some more things that irritated me through the whole manga:

  • What kind of girls would voluntarily enter a school that has a game going on that totally degrades them to mere playthings of some boys with serious anger management problems?
  • Also why won’t the girls just leave the school? The game only works within the school grounds, so leaving is the most simple action they could take to escape their tormentors.

  • But what probably irritated me the most is how the manga managed to depict almost all the boys as violent and partly devious monsters. They randomly beat up girls, treat them like they’re worth nothing, molest them and even try to rape them. From the beginning it’s clear that the boys are the bad guys and that it’s completely their fault that things turned out so ugly in this game. So which message this manga nearly screams at you is: ‘Do not trust guys, they’re evil.’ But after about 20 chapters of manifesting this message, the story makes  a 180 degree turn and now claims that the boys are not really that bad and that you should consider their feelings as well. That was just so unexpected and messed up…

Characters: 7/10
Sora Himoto is the main character of this story and let me tell you, she really makes one of the most enjoyable protagonists in all shounen yuri manga I’ve ever read (Ok, well I haven’t read that many so far…). She’s brave, good-natured, strong-willed and she never gives up. Now some people might say that she’s a little too perfect, but then again she’s also slightly dense, really naïve and she seems to have some kind of protection complex going on and  at least I think that these features make her knightly character very believable. 
And on a completely unrelated note, you have to admit that even though she tries to come off as the girls’ strong knight, she still is very cute and I would totally be the number one member of her harem~
 

Of course all the girls will fall in love with her…

Since I don’t want to go into detail with each and every important character of this manga, let me just explain things like this; We can divide all the important characters into 3 different categories:
On the one hand we have the members of Sora’s harem, consisting of all the girls, she either saved from their male oppressor or convinced to join her side by simply being the great and overly protective person that she is.
On the other hand we have the bad guys, which consist to almost 99% of boys only.
And to spice things up we also have those people that fall into neither of the two big categories. So not all the guys are heartless monsters and not all the girls want to join Sora’s harem, but the thing with this manga is that you can never know who’s good and who’s bad. This story constantly surprises you, so that you can never be certain which characters you can really trust.
Art: 10/10
Let’s make it short. I only have one word to describe the art of this manga: Gorgeous
You don’t believe me? Well here’s some proof:

I’m also absolutely in love with their school uniform~
Page example, click to enlarge
Yuri: 6/10
Shitsurakuen is not really a pure yuri manga, well at least not until chapter 24, but we all know that this chapter never existed for me in the first place…
Through the whole manga, we can see that the girls in Sora’s harem either admire her or really have a thing for her, but some obvious yuri actions are quite rare, while the manga is still packed with more subtle yuri moments. The only chapters that really come with quite a lot of yuri are the omakes and those are not only cute but sometimes really hilarious as well.
All in all I come to the conclusion, that I would have loved to see more going on between Sora and some or at least one of her harem members, but the amount of cute yuri is still very high, even though it is not very obvious. Disregarding what happened in chapter 24, I think the one I wanted to be paired up with Sora the most would be Reiko. I absolutely loved her and I especially enjoyed her little “harassment” scene with Sora. Here’s a little reminder for those of you, who don’t know what I’m talking about.

Total Enjoyment: 9/10
I know that this story, even before the last few chapters, has some flaws and some things that just don’t add up. Still I think that this is one of the best yuri manga there are and one of the few that I’m quite certain would make a very successful anime as well. So even though Shitsurakuen is far from being perfect, it definitely deserves to be my number 3 in my top 10 favorite yuri manga list and if you haven’t read this yet, I do highly recommend you to do so. Especially the ones among you that prefer a fast-paced action story over a slow romance will be very happy with this one.
Please note that my rating here is based on the story without the last few chapters as well.
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23 thoughts on “Manga Review: Shitsurakuen

  1. Oh this manga was so bad for my heart, really bad. I've noticed that i fall in love at first sight with counterparts, antagonistic characters and costar characters, but what happened with that special someone in here… was so awfully wrong for me.
    I cried non-stopping in so many chapters, especially when Tsuki says to Sora how special is for her, the phrase “you are my idiotic and honorable knight” made me cry my eyes out.
    Even with the final chapters and the ending of the story as well, this manga truly is something worth reading… at least for me, it gave me so many feelings ;///; *sniff*

    i edited this, sorry ;//;

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  2. Aw that scene was really great and one of the most memorable moments of the whole manga for me.
    I've already read a lot of bad comments about Shitsurakuen, some that actually had a point and some that I absolutely disagreed with, so I'm happy to see that someone loved this manga just as much or maybe even a little more than I did.

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  3. I think the problem is it is rushed…
    I heard it was cancelled thus unable to continue as it should and thus it ended with such end that boil my feeling worthy of thousand suns raging burning heart…
    Also, I think the revelation that all boy is 'good' in the end is forced by the editor…
    I mean I heard some cases where the author of manga can't fully expressed what they mean in their manga due to alteration that editor forced them to do, so while I have no proof I think it is possible…
    Especially because the ending is so contradicting with the earlier stuffs…

    It just…
    Ugh…
    I love this manga but the many-many things in the end as you said make me hate this piece of…
    And I can't even hate this for the fact that it is actually good early on but…

    Sigh…

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  4. The ending really is contradicting and it's maybe not only what happened in chapter 23, since I think starting from chapter 20, things gradually got weirder.
    And maybe what you said is true, especially the last few chapters, where all the secrets and whatnot were revealed, felt really rushed.
    I mean the amount of important information especially in chapter 22 alone was really high, which made the story feel rushed and even incomprehensible.

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  5. I should hire you to write my Man of Steel review because it's pretty much how I would write my review f that awesome movie.

    While I still do not think as highly of this manga as you do, I do not think any less of you for enjoying it a lot.

    Since I've also read the manga, why do you dislike the end pairing? Why does their union enrage you? Wait, I think I know the answer but I'll wait and see what you have to say.

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  6. I think almost no one really approved of the ending 😛

    And answering your question is actually pretty hard.
    Throughout most of the manga, Tsuki appeared to be a very stoic person who doesn't even show emotions when she's alone with her most important person. She never laughed, only rarely smiled and until the last few chapters, I didn't even know that she could show any kind of emotion at all. You could say that from the beginning, Tsuki was not one of my favorite characters and I also thought that a character like her would simply not fit Sora that well.
    But that's not really the main reason.

    The last few chapters made it pretty clear that she's like the craziest person of them all and that's really something considering that at least half of the cast is already absolutely messed up and crazy.
    So maybe I just think that Sora deserves someone better, one that also fits her better, like Reiko.

    So is my answer what you thought it would be?

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  7. I couldn't get past the beginning of this series, so I'll probably never see how I would have reacted to the ending. This was just one of those Yuri series I felt with a deeply flawed premise.

    I dislike the way it portrayed all men as the 2 dimensional sadistic villains. I know it's Yuri and our male characters aren't always treated the best, but that's usually in small quantities like one man and therefore not a proper judgment of the population as a whole. This is trying to say something about the population as a whole. All men, if left to their own devices, will turn into women hating pigs. Not cool.

    I don't really get enjoyment seeing women treated poorly. Even less from seeing women being submissive while being treated poorly. Overall there was just very little enjoyment factor in this manga.

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  8. Nope. It's pretty much what I had expected your reply to be. The 180 was so unexpected and out of nowhere that it made Tsuki an even lamer character than she already was.

    I mentioned my top 3 picks of superior wives for Sora.

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  9. I as well was very irritated with the portrayal of men in this one, but things do change, even though it takes a while for to happen.
    And as I said in my review, at some point this manga makes a 180 degree turn and things turn out pretty unexpected, so maybe you are be one of the few people that would like the ending more than what I consider the good part of the manga.

    Still I'm not trying to convince you to continue reading this. I'm pretty sure, from what you just told me, that you would most likely hate the rest of the story just as much as you hated the beginning.

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  10. It's weird seeing your scoring

    Story 7/10
    Characters 7/10
    Art 10/10
    Yuri 6/10
    Total Enjoyment 9/10

    lol, so the story, the characters and the yuri wasn't all that but the art seriously carried this for you.

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  11. Haha now that you mention it, it really does look weird.

    But my total enjoyment is not necessarily based on my other scores. I just try to recall how much I enjoyed reading it in the end and even though I know Shitsurakuen has some serious flaws, I still can't help but love it.
    And you already know just how much the art of a manga matters to me 😉

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  12. Really can't add much more to what Lilyvess said. The boys are for the most part two-dimensional, sadistic villains and the girls submissive damsels to be rescued. And when the manga went “oh but you should all be nice and forgive your absolutely remorseless torturers who dehumanized you and treated you like a commodity” and then tried to pair up the girls with them the story jumped several sharks. Not to mention the reveal of the mastermind.

    It's effectively a fantasy manga and just a thin excuse to give a girl an excuse to kick ass and get a harem. And that's great! If it had stayed just a silly adventure and maybe made the premise a bit less questionable, I might've really liked this. So much wasted potential.

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  13. I also wished it would have just stayed a silly adventure manga with a great yuri harem but well…
    And even though I already said how much I hated the portrayal of men in the first few chapters, I would have still liked it to continue this way.
    Just Sora saving her princesses from the evil guys while constantly throwing herself into danger, which eventually leads to all the girls falling in love with her. Simple and great.

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  14. It's ultimately a no win situation. I, along with many others, just can't look past it's poor treatment of men, along with it's frequent depictions of helpless women in abuse. A cop out ending just feels like a pitiful attempt to appease these fans, one that just ends up making the series lack conviction.

    It's terrible how easy it is to fix the whole story. Change from a battle of the sexes to a battle of the classes, rich vs poor. Add in a few evil rich women and a couple helpless poor men and suddenly this isn't as disgusting.

    For extra points you can add in a second faction made up of the poor women who have had enough and fight back in extreme ways, representing Vengeance and not Justice. Now Sora is standing in the middle of a war trying to keep the peace.

    Sadly, that wasn't meant to be. I consider this one of my all-time least favorite Yuri series, along with Love DNA XX (which is just a Yaoi series in my mind), and Maria-Holic.

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  15. And yet again I agree with almost everything you just said.

    And when writing this I already knew that there will probably be a lot of people who disagree with what I said in my review and how I finally rated this manga.
    Everyone has different no-goes and different things they value the most in (yuri) manga.
    I think I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to yuri manga and anime which is why I should probably never write a review about Maria Holic 😛

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  16. I just finished this manga today, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It had nonstop action that wasn't senseless. The yuri wasn't fanservice, and it was central to the storyline (WHAT!?). As opposed to you, I very much prefer shounen yuri. Not saying shounen yuri is better. I just like it for the action. Except Ikkitousen. By God, I would destroy all existing technology in the world before watching it.

    As for the 180, I believe it was implied since chapter 14 during the Hiyo arc. I stress implied, because when reading about Sora's thoughts (“What do guys really think?”), it didn't seem too significant. If anything, the question made me think, “Why do guys abuse the girls?” and at that point, the manga had convinced me the answer was because status and wealth were more important to them than being in love with a woman. “What do guys really think?” question comes up at least once a chapter until the very end.

    While the editor thing sounds plausible, I don't know how Sora would've been able to abolish Iwahijiri's male chauvinism without some guys already against that belief system. Whether the true storyline changed or not, I truly believe Sora would've needed the help of guys who wanted to eradicate male chauvinism like her, because it seems more realistic that way. I'm not trying to argue with anybody. I just think the “guys aren't really evil” thing was necessary for the plot.

    Thing is, it's hard to truly hate (not annoyed, that's different) any main character. All of them have gone through some nasty “ish” in their past, and that horrible past shaped their present crazy or incompetent selves. I couldn't help but pity them. For instance, the poor boys were going insane from the girls' sheer hatred and fear of them, and Tsuki was bat-s*** crazy all because both her parents died. It was hard to blame any character for the conditions and circumstances the students were in, except maybe for Iwahijiri. I don't know enough about the dude besides the fact that he seems like a male supremacist.

    Sora is shippable with any character in this manga. The only reason is probably because she the knight/savior of the school and everybody's got some issue that Sora could somehow fix for them. In Tsuki's case, it makes total sense (to me at least) how she would end up with Sora in the end. They're complete opposites, and opposites attract mumble mumble yada yada… Not only that, but since Sora wants EVERYONE to be happy, the crazy girl will get a happy ending, too. Else, it would be contradicting Sora's livelihood if Tsuki had an unhappy ending. I personally have no problem with Tsuki. If anything, I pitied her the most of every character. I'll be honest, though. During the Reiko arc, shipped ReikoxSora so hard, but tsunderes can be so annoying… -_- Then again, I shipped Sora with every female in her harem at some point.

    As for the cancellation rumor, it would explain the rushed ending. It really seemed like the writer wanted to go for 30s-40s chapters. So unfortunate. :'(

    Overall, I would reread Shitsurakuen. The characters were likable but since there were so many that it was hard to introduce them, not to mention remembering them. You could definitely tell how the writer wanted to end the manga (referring to chapter 24), but it seemed as if they weren't sure how to get there after saving the 5 girls with seals.

    Oh man, I wrote so much stuff! I like giving input if you can't tell. Sorry if some of it was confusing. Please take this as an expression of opinion. I'm not trying to impose my beliefs onto anyone. I'm not the Westboro Baptist Church. Oops! I made a dis. ;P

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  17. Thanks for even leaving a full review, it was a very nice read 😉

    It's been a while since I wrote that review and since then I came across some other Shitsurakuen reviews, many of which complaining about the whole manga and not only about the ending like I did.

    So it's really nice hearing that you enjoyed this one so much, I wish other people could see it like that as well.
    Ah well, I do understand why people don't like it, it's just that in my case, the good aspects of this manga cancel out the bad ones a little.

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  18. I want to read this but i see a lot of regret from the last few chapters? Where should i stop if i want to read this and keep a perfect image of it in my mind? I can already tell from the first few chapters that it can have quite a few rather dark endings…

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  19. I highly recommend reading it. It's a must-read manga like Citrus or Girlfriends. I liked reading it very much. All manga/anime have let downs, so don't let the spoilers and reviews discourage you. Personally, I look at reviews for recommendations. However, I don't read more than the title of the manga/anime, the ratings the reviewer gave it, or the first few paragraphs, because I want to know if it's worth my time.

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  20. In this case, I would recommend you to leave out chapter 23 and 24.
    But then again, even though you might not like the ending, I don't think you wanna leave the story unfinished like this.
    Just read until chapter 23 and decide from this point if you wanna keep going.

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  21. The last few chapters was a one massive clusterfuck, my mind never bothered comprehending. I really like Sora tho, she's stupid yet sweet and has this 'Oh yeah, Hakuna Matata' personality.

    Love your reviews, btw.

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