Imai Kami’s premier manga, Needless, concluded with Chapter 114 in June of 2013, following a cherished 10 year run. In December 2013, Imai Kami’s other long-running manga of 7 years, Shirasunamura, also concluded. At the time Needless concluded, Kami expressed interest in taking a well-deserved break before returning to draw the latter half of Needless with his planned continuation called Needless 2. However, since that summer, Kami has been quiet as a mangaka, only working on 4koma comics for Arcadia magazine and releasing an art book in 2014. It wasn’t until January 2015 when I discovered that Kami had been working on a new manga in Arcadia magazine, Shoukan! Kengou Gakuen, with the first volume being available in February. Unable to find any useful information online, I waited patiently for the manga to be imported from Japan. Imai Kami’s new manga, Shoukan! Kengou Gakuen will be the focus for Day 1 of my 12 Days of Anime for 2015.
It’s been quite a while I’ve read a chapter of any manga written by Imai Kami, so to get 7 at once is quite a special treat, akin to getting over half-a-year of monthly manga all in one day. Of course, I have yet to really dive into Shirasunamura, and I’d like to start it knowing that it will be finished one of these days. Anyway, when Shoukan! Kengou Gakuen arrived, I immediately read through the manga and came away impressed.
The manga is very much the spiritual successor to Needless, at least until Needless 2 begins, in that its characters, style, humor, fanservice, and gore all mirror Needless’s style. In fact, many of the elements are similar to Needless, including a guest appearance by Mio in the background of one panel. The gags are very much in Kami’s standard Manzai style with the lead character, Hanyu Juubei, being the tsukkomi and everyone else playing the boke (though it does reverse at times), but I must admit that the jokes are particularly crazy near the beginning when Kami has more freedom with the characters and story. The action is particularly interesting, especially since it deviates from the style of Needless where everyone has superpowers related to elements. Here, there are more superpowered fighters, but the girls of Shoukan! Kengou Gakuen invoke the spirits of their samurai ancestors and use their skills and power to win swordfights or other one-one-one combat. The latter half of the volume does introduce an antagonist, though it was only a brief introduction. It should also be worth nothing that the manga is quite ecchi, with fanservice prevalent throughout. In fact, with its all-female cast, I would say it’s more ecchi than Needless, considering that the first half of the volume is all buruma and the latter half was all panties. However, it’s really in the style of fanservice that I enjoy, so while I may find it as a positive, others might find it as a negative.
Overall, I came away impressed with the manga, especially with its fresh feel while keeping the charm and style of Needless. Whereas Needless takes place in a post-WW3 setting, Shoukan! Kengou Gakuen takes place in a modern, Japanese high-school, so a very different setting and style for Kami to use. And while there are limitations with this setting compared to more of a science-fiction one, it certainly feels different to be in modern Japan instead of following nuclear attacks on Japan. And while I am eager for Needless 2 to restart, it’s a nice, short series to keep me content until Kami finally finishes writing his own story before starting his manga.
But, unfortunately, that’s all there is of Shoukan! Kengou Gakuen to date. Arcadia magazine went out of business in spring of this year as it was the magazine supporting and publishing Shoukan! Kengou Gakuen. With no information from Arcadia or Imai Kami’s website, I turned to the sources. After emailing Kadokawa, enterbrain, and ComicWalker this December, I received word that they had received numerous questions about the release of Volume 2, but are unsure when it will be available. So… I’m not sure what to make of it, but it seems like a third Kami manga that’s run into difficulties with its publishing process. Hopefully, we’ll hear some good news soon, but it’s difficult to say given the history of the situation. Still, I am very grateful for Shoukan! Kengou Gakuen and for Kami to be publishing a manga again. After waiting almost 2 years, it was wonderful to receive 7 new chapters and know that he is well on his way to completing a fresh, new manga. When that will occur is still to be determined. However, the whole experience and the unfortunate situation make Day 1 of my 12 Days of Anime. I hope you enjoyed reading about my unforgettable experiences this year and are looking forward to another wonderful year of anime with 2016!