Gakuen Alice–Anime Review

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3.5 Stars
Have you ever wondered what X-Men would be like if it were a shoujo manga? Me neither, but I think we have the answer here anyway. It would still be about young people with mutant powers, but it would be cute and whimsical, and just a little dark.

  • Title
    Gakuen Alice (Alice Academy)
  • Genres
    Fantasy, Comedy, Coming of Age
  • Demographic
  • Contents
    26 Episodes on 5 DVDs (1 box set.)
  • Languages
    Japanese with subtitles
  • Based on
    A manga by Tachibana Higuchi
  • Director
    Takahiro Ohmori
  • Series Composition
    Masashi Youkoyama
  • Script
    Jukki Hanada, Masashi Youkoyama, Michiru Shimada
  • Character Design
    Yoshiaki Itou
  • Art Director
    Yoshinori Hishinuma
  • Music
    Makoto Yoshimori
  • Animation Studio
    Group TAC
  • Broadcast
  • Region 1 Publisher
    Nozomi Entertainment

The anime has a weakness shared by many series based on an ongoing manga: the ending, while not entirely unsatisfactory, is not conclusive. Many questions are raised but left unanswered, including the vital question of whether the Academy is fundamentally a good institution that protects the children or a bad institution set up to control and exploit them. Someday, perhaps, the manga will reach a conclusion and maybe then there will be another anime series to wrap things up.

Parental Advisory

Most of the time the series is so whimsical and charming that I am tempted to say that it is fine for anyone old enough to read the subtitles. However there are some elements that make it marginal for viewers at the lower end of that age range. There are a number of scenes of children being threatened, and the premise of the story (that the government is basically kidnapping children and keeping them away from their parents) is likely to be disturbing to young children.

Most children aged 10 and up will not find it overly frightening and will probably enjoy it.

As with most shoujo anime there are some very minor yuri and yaoi elements that may bother some parents but which will probably go right over the heads of younger viewers. It is perfectly possible to watch the series and assume that Mikan’s feelings for Hotaru are purely platonic, and that Mr. Narumi is…um…Mr. Narumi is…a creative non-comformist! Yeah, that’s the ticket!

Premise and Characters

Mikan SakuraMikan Sakura seems to be a fairly ordinary young girl: cute, cheerful and energetic, but not particularly academically talented. She speaks in a comic Kansai dialect which underscores her impulsive and emotional nature.
GrandpaMikan lives with her Grandfather, an elderly martial artist who practices harsh discipline on himself but is always kind to her.
Hotaru and MikanMikan’s best friend Hotaru Imai is almost her exact opposite. Hotaru is very bad at expressing her feelings and acts in a cold, aloof and ultra-rational manner.
InventionHotaru is always coming up with amazing inventions which are technically brilliant and strangely cute. Most have an animal theme.
Hotaru LeavingMikan is heartbroken when she learns that Hotaru is going to move away and transfer to some sort of boarding school. Hotaru promises to write to her, but months go by without even a postcard from her.
RumorsMikan is even more disturbed when she overhears some classmates saying that Hotaru has gone to a special school for geniuses called the “Alice Academy”, whose students are kept incommunicado and not even allowed to see their parents.
PostcardFinally a postcard arrives from Hotaru. It is infuriatingly brief and uninformative, but it contains a clue that convinces Mikan that she can find where Hotaru is.
Mikan on TrainLeaving a note for her grandfather, she takes the next train to Tokyo.
Academy GateFollowing the clue from the postcard she is able to find her objective: a huge walled complex with a plaque that says “The Alice Research Institute.” Unfortunately the guards at the gate will not let her inside.
Unsavory CharactersTwo unsavory characters see her standing outside the gate, and mistaking her for one of the students they try to kidnap her.
Mikan and Mr NarumiMikan is saved by Mr. Narumi, one of the teachers at the Academy. After looking her over he offers her the chance to enroll as one of the Academy’s students. As usuall, Mikan does not stop to think through the consequences. Overjoyed at the prospect of being reunited with Hotaru, she eagerly accepts.
Mr Misaki ExplainsInside the Academy Mikan meets Mr. Misaki, Mr. Narumi’s best friend and fellow teacher. Mr. Misaki explains what is really going on. The Alice Academy is not really a school for geniuses. Rather it is a place for children who have what any self-respecting American comic book would call “mutant powers”, but which here are called “Alices” [1]. Mr. Misaki teaches biology and his own Alice allows him to breed strange fast-moving plants.
Mikan ReactionHe explains that Mikan must have an Alice of her own, or she would not have been admitted. However he doesn’t know what it is; she will have to figure it out for herself.
Mr NarumiMr. Narumi teaches Japanese and has the “Human Pheromone” Alice, which allows him to control other people’s feelings. He is cheerful and kind and Mikan likes him a lot. He likes to wear flamboyant outfits and is probably the only male teacher who can get away with wearing velvet.
(One thing about this series is that it is difficult for either the students or the audience to be sure which adults are trustworthy.)
School GroundsInside the walls of the Academy is a huge campus, with buildings separated by open fields and forests. The buildings include lecture halls, laboratories, dormitories, a hospital and a working farm. [2] There is a small central village with shops where you can buy items created by mutant craftsmen.
Class BThe Elementary Division is divided into two classes [3]. Mikan is assigned to Class B, a rowdy bunch of students, most of whom greet her with suspicion and disdain since she can’t even say what her Alice is.
Natsume HyuugaNatsume Hyuuga seems particularly unfriendly. A moody, antisocial boy with the dangerous Fire Alice, he is much admired by many of the other students for his rebellious tendencies.
Ruka NogiNatsume’s best friend Ruka Nogi has the ability to control animals. He is a gentle boy who loves animals beyond all reason. He doesn’t bully Mikan but he doesn’t approach her either.
Sumire ShoudaSumire Shouda considers herself Natsume’s biggest fan, and she takes the lead in bullying Mikan. Sumire’s Alice is too embarrassing to mention.
Kokoroyomi YomeKokoroyomi Yome embarrasses Mikan by reading her thoughts. Out loud.
LevitationMochiage is also very rude to her.
Youichi HijiriYouichi Hijiri is a little boy who clings to Natsume, and Natsume is very protective of him. He has the power to summon evil spirits.
Mikan and HotaruEven Hotaru doesn’t act very happy to see Mikan. She has been doing well at the Academy and hopes to be declared the top student in the class, which would qualify her for a family visit. She worries that Mikan will get into trouble and mess things up for both of them. (Actually she is glad to see Mikan, but as always she is unable to express her feelings properly.) Her Alice, of course, is “Invention.”
Yuu TobitaOn the other hand Class Representative Yuu Tobita moves quickly to befriend Mikan. He is a smart, sensible and responsible boy, perhaps a bit of a goody two-shoes, with the power to cast illusions.
Mr FukutanThe substitute teacher Mr. Fukutan is totally unable to keep the class under control. He is nervous and excitable. His Alice gives him the ability to grow his hair long.
Mr JinnoOn the other hand Mr. Jinno, the Head Teacher, rules the class with an iron hand. A harsh and humorless disciplinarian, he has the power to control lightning and would not hesitate to use it against a disobedient student.
Serina YamadaSerina Yamada, the English teacher, is always gazing into her crystal ball.
TakahashiMs Takahashi is the house mother of the Elementary Division dormitory. She is a brusque no-nonsense type.
AmanatsuAmanatsu is a robot who looks and talks like Mikan [4]. Hotaru built her when she first came to the Academy to assuage her loneliness. Unfortunately Amanatsu seems pretty stupid, even for a robot.
Mr BearMr. Bear lives in a cabin in the woods and is always ready to beat the crap out of any child who ventures too close.
Giant PiyoGiant Piyo, the result of a botched agricultural experiment, can often be found stomping around the forest.
Special Abilities GroupMikan has an easier time making friends with some older students who are members of the “Special Abilities” group–a bunch of misfits even by Academy standards.
Tsubasa AndouTsubasa Andou is a somewhat alienated middle school student. He becomes very protective of Mikan and treats her like a little sister. He has the power of shadow manipulation.
Misaki HaradaHis classmate Misaki Harada adores Mikan but picks on Tsubasu. Actually the two of them are very close. She has the Doppelgänger Alice.
Kaname SonouKaname Sonou is a sickly boy with the power to make stuffed animals come to life.
Mr NodaMr. Noda is the adviser for the Special Abilities group. He has the Time Travel Alice, which causes him to randomly travel through time at inconvenient moments. [5]
PersonaPersona is a scary character who seems to have some sort of hold over Natsume, forcing him to use his power on dangerous, destructive missions.
Reo MouriReo Mouri is a graduate of the Academy, now a famous rock star. Secretly he hates the Academy and is determined to destroy it. He has the power to control people with his voice.
Subaru ImaiSubaru Imai is Hotaru’s older brother and a member of the high school student council. He and Hotaru don’t get along well. Like Hotaru he appears cold and unfeeling at first, but is capable of kindness. He has powers of healing and pain management.

Other Versions

The original manga is published in English by TOKYOPOP.


Wikipedia entry. (Spoilers. The entry is based on the manga, which is darker than the anime and continues the story beyond the end of the television series.)

ANN Encyclopedia entry.


[1] Probably “Alice” is either a politically-correct euphemism, or one of those code words that ends up becoming the official term, like “Macintosh.”

[2] The idea that such a place could exist in the middle of Tokyo is blatantly absurd. The campus looks larger than the Imperial Palace grounds!

[3] Given the amount of money obviously lavished on the Academy, one would think that they would have at least one class per grade level, even if this resulted very small class sizes. The limiting factor is probably the availability of mutant teachers, the only sort that the children will pay attention to.

[4] mikan means “mandarin orange”, while amanatsu means “pomelo”.

[5] Fortunately, unlike the character in The Time Traveller’s Wife, he arrives with his clothes on.