Manga Review: School Judgment: Gakkyu Hotei Volume Two

School Judgment: Gakkyu Hotei Volume 2 sees the Japanese government introducing a new system, called the School Judgment System, into grade schools across the country. It is of the children, and for the children, and features classroom arbitration. At the beginning of the series, Abaku Inugami and Pine Hanzuki transfer into Class 6-3 at Himawari City Tenbin Elementary School.  Abaku serves as an attorney and Pine serves as a prosecutor.

School Judgment: Gakkyu Hotei Volume 2
Written by: Nobuaki Enoki
Publisher: Shueisha Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: April 5, 2016

Volume 2 continues the arbitration for Magical Happy, a popular snack that is supposedly as addictive as a drug. At first, it appears that the person least likely to be suspected of distributing the snack may be guilty, but Abaku uses his intellect to reveal the truth of the matter. When I read this particular story, I hadn’t been able to guess most of the information that was revealed during the arbitration. While I figured out who the suspect distributing the snack was, I hadn’t entirely pieced together why this person was guilty. One thing that stood out to me during this story arc is a musing that Abaku has at the end of it about what an addiction really is. When I read this, I thought he was rather deep for a sixth grader.

The next story arc sees Abaku being approached by two art students who claim the other is stealing their ideas. They seek a classroom arbitration, but Abaku isn’t interested in copyright cases. But when he sees that two of the art pieces in question look exactly the same, he takes on the case. This story introduces a new character named Kotaro Sarutobi, Abaku’s rival that shares a secret past with him. Of the cases I’ve read in the series, this was one of the most interesting. There are several unexpected twists that are revealed during the arbitration, and the students and teacher who play an important role in this case received some of the best character development for minor characters. This is likely due to the fact that this particular case takes up several chapters in School Judgment: Gakkyu Hotei Volume 2. And this story also sees Abaku providing more backstory for himself and Kotaro, when he starts sharing information about his past with Tento.

The third and final story in this volume gives the reader some character development for Pine through the introduction of her father, who is a prosecutor for regular courts. He has already sent in paperwork to have Pine transferred to another elementary school, but it’s obvious that Pine has come to care about her classmates and doesn’t want to leave. But when a case involving the story of an evil spirit, the school’s pool, and dead goldfish unfolds, Pine’s father decides to prosecute it himself, and goes head-to-head with Abaku. Her father thinks it’ll be a piece of cake to prevail over a sixth grader, and he quickly jumps to a conclusion as to who the guilty party is. It’s up to Abaku to prove this person’s innocence, and perhaps help keep Pine at their school if he triumphs over her father. Pine’s father is depicted as being a conceited jerk, so the audience can easily root for Abaku. And I thought this was a great story that shows that adults aren’t always right and should give a little more consideration to young people and what they have to say. My only nitpick with this particular story arc is how some of the sixth grade girls are being sexualized by making the busty girls wear bikinis that don’t leave much to the imagination. These particular characters are supposed to be 11 and 12-year-old girls, so this depiction just feels inappropriate to me.

When it comes to the art, Takeshi Obata has given each character unique designs, which makes it extremely difficult to confuse characters. It’s also obvious that Obata put a lot of effort and detail into his drawings for this manga. While I may not be happy about the young girls in revealing bikinis, I still think that overall, the art in this series is very well done.

School Judgment: Gakkyu Hotei is a series that should appeal to readers who enjoy mystery stories. Even though the mysteries are solved during arbitration rather than through investigations, the stories are still interesting to read and follow. If you’re a fan of the Case Closed manga, then you might also enjoy reading this series.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

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