Girls Kingdom Vol. 1 Review

It really, really shouldn’t work, yet…

It’s Misaki’s first day at Amanotsuka Academy for Girls, and she’s realized she’s made a terrible mistake – she’s managed to end up at the back of the school and cannot find a gate, putting herself at risk of missing the opening ceremony. But Misaki’s willing to risk leaping over the wall surrounding the school’s grounds… which lands her in a new quandary when she’s spotted by fellow student Himeko. According to Himeko, clambering over the wall is grounds for instant expulsion, and motion sensors mean its only minutes until her infraction is discovered. But Himeko offers Misaki a solution – if Misaki agrees to become her ‘Seraph’, Himeko’ll cover up the incident. Misaki, ignorant of what a Seraph even is, nevertheless agrees – in her impoverished state, she can’t bear the prospect of losing out on her scholarship. Thus begins the girl’s unexpected detour from a life of regular academics to one in which… she’s a maid? It turns out Misaki should’ve read the school brochure more closely before she enrolled, as Amanotsuka is no ordinary school, but one in which the student body is divided into wealthy girls and the more humble girls who are there to train as domestic servants… which surely doesn’t bode well for Misaki’s dreams of landing a well-paying business gig.

If Girls Kingdom ever took itself at all seriously, it’d instantly break up on the obvious shoals of its wildly problematic premise – a school full of rich gals with a captive population of maid-students at their disposal? It’s not quite into Honey x Honey Drops territory, but it doesn’t take a genius to see how disastrous such a prospect would be in real life. Luckily, what follows is so thoroughly goofy and campy that it largely evades encouraging a deeper consideration of it’s set-up, although I can easily understand why that wouldn’t be enough for many readers…

…and, in fact, my own unease with the premise is why I’m only getting to this upon its second time its been released in English. GL Bunko, the original publisher in Japanese, had a relatively limited effort to release some of its own titles in English a few years back, one of which was this series. (I know there was at least one other one, but I can’t remember what it was.) Even my purchase this time was more to do with a desire to encourage J-Novel Club to license more yuri light novels than to do with a personal interest in this particular series – its certainly a subset of LN English-language publishing that’s only grown in the past couple of years, but its still early enough days yet that I’m taking chances on stuff that wouldn’t normally appeal to me since I want this trend to continue.

Which is, I suppose, simply a very long way of saying – gee, I shouldn’t’ve liked this, but I sure did, isn’t that very nice? Because, in addition to the uneasy-making of the basic premise (the elite students have outsize control an influence over the poorer students!), there sure are a lot of other peripherals that are not my cup of tea – maids, chiefly, but also teehee we’re groping you but we’re all girls so it isn’t sexual harassment teehee! and underwear shopping (after a few paragraphs, I entirely skimmed the latter segment). And I did not enjoy either of those aspects, yet somehow the presence of these distasteful elements was not sufficient to sink the entire thing – probably since they, mercifully, did not eat up much of the page count. Of course, it also helped that translator Philip Reuben does a great job of maintaining the right tone for the deeply silly goings-on that make up the narrative.

Although I liked this book a lot, it occurs to me that I should warn prospective readers that the yuri present in this volume is precious little. There’s some of that sort of stuff that I tend to think of as “window-dressing yuri”, which is to say, things that are more concerned with looking possibly salacious than in actually having any substantive content to it (for example, underwear shopping in which kyaaahhhh bra sizes oh no senpai’s boobs are bigger than mine!*). Whether it’ll get much further than that in the second volume is an open question, or, well, is if I’m being too optimistic, as I suspect it won’t. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to picking it up when it’s released in March.

* At the risk of overshare, it is funny to come across a fictional character who has my bra size, assuming the bra sizing was converted to American from Japanese; its unusual enough that its always hellish trying to find it in stores.

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