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Review: Mikagura School Suite

Eruna Ichinomiya longs for a world where she can just have fun, the threat of adulthood permanently erased. Her dreams so penetrating they’ve started to mesh thread for thread with her reality, you’re never quite sure whether the events after episode one are even real. In fact, Mikagura School Suite is perhaps a better viewing experience if you do assume you’re just hitching a ride on her fantasy.

Choosing Mikagura Academy as her new school based on the cuteness of the uniforms and her fellow female students, she manages to apply without even realising. One primary school level maths quiz and an introduction with a winged cat mascot later, she’s accepted based on said mascot’s sense of her magical potential. That is, she can see him, so she’s in. With that, Eruna is set loose to literally drool over the hotties that call the magical Malory Towers-cum-Hunger Games Lite boarding school their home.

In all the effervescence of exploring the school and meeting its misfit students, the fact that Eruna likes girls shrinks right back down to a comic tool. Mikagura could have been a big part of her sexual awakening, being the residence of her first love Seisa Mikagura, and making her character a potent antidote to dull harem dudes. But here, love and club battles are constantly fighting for focus. Scuffles between a representative of each club work as a kind of currency system for the school, the champions being the most ‘wealthy’ with the biggest rooms and best meals, and those yet to join a club, like Eruna, stuck with a sleeping bag in the hall and a single side-dish for dinner. The conflict never progresses beyond being a battle trope injection method for a heightened fantasy school aesthetic, personalised life crystals and attack spells in tow. But all the attention to power-ups and establishing the alphas and underdogs means the blossoming romance between Eruna and Seisa gets stuck on the sidelines.

What is explored of the scars of betrayal that make Seisa move through the school like a freezing breeze is still touching, asserting that the hurts of high school are very real, even permanent but for being healed by those we love. Aspiring astrologer and cutie-pie Asuhi may come across the token androgyne at the start, but once he recounts being bullied for not being manly enough – “or something equally as silly” –  the story of how he came to love the stars brought me on board over any other tangent. This courtesy is extended to a few other characters, like moody artist Kyoma, stroppy princess Otone and, of course, Seisa, to show how they came to display their façades to the school. But even here not all characters are treated equal, giving the appearance of stuffing character development in between battles wherever possible.

That said, the show does take on some entertaining meta relevance in unexpected places. While Eruna is trying to attract members for her own club, she plies the newspaper club with fake news of aliens, spooks and scandal. Time after time, she tricks them into broadcasting her working-titled Surround Eruna With Cute Girls Club. It also makes fun of the bouncy-bouncies obsession of many of its fellow high school rom-coms, getting bonus points for steering clear of the cultural festival and school trip tropes. But the fact remains there was simply no room for these tonal shifts in the first place. Too lazy to make something unique of its pastel-bright adventures, the vague attempts slip between the cracks in a crammed hodgepodge of patchy drama, school rumours and lacklustre battles.


Extras:

English dub; episode 9 & 10 commentary; clean opening/closing animations; promos & trailers.

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