School Judgment Volume 1
In this series, a court system has been put into place to settle classroom disputes. One day, a particular grade school class gets two new transfer students: defense attorney Abuku Inugami and prosecutor Pine Hanzuki. Why are they there? One of the students in the class has been accused of brutally murdering a member of the classroom but that’s only the beginning.
The Good and the Bad
I’ve never been big on shonen manga. Particularly shonen manga that is endless fighting and powering up. Reading those series just puts me to sleep to be honest. However School Judgement is an entirely different kind of shonen manga; it’s clever, witty and unique in a way that I haven’t seen before and that makes me happy.
Courtroom dramas are certainly nothing new in the world of anime and manga; Phoenix Wright is still as popular as ever, Danganronpa was pretty successful and Wizard Barristers was… alright, that last one was a bad example but the point is that court procedurals are not brand new to the scene. However, this one comes across as a fresh breath of air just for the fact that the setting and way that it goes about things are so interesting.
In this series, the setting is a grade school with two transfer students coming in and acting as lawyers who try cases in front of other students to settle disputes. That alone got me more than a little interested in what was happening. What really tickled me though and had me giggling throughout the entire first volume is how these pint sized lawyers balanced their very adult jobs with their very immature minds. A fantastic example of this is when you see the defense set up a very plush and professional looking office… inside of an elephant slide on the school’s playground.
On the other side though you have the prosecutor who likes to think that she is some kind of magical girl coming to the rescue of her fellow students and has a servant that she refers to as loli-matsu which honestly sounds kind of dirty but I’m not familiar enough with the Japanese language to know if this is actually a dirty joke or not (the way he acts at times certainly makes it feel dirty though). The prosecutor, Pine, certainly doesn’t ruin anything but she will take some serious getting used to as she has a very tropey rich girl persona that can come across as not so hilariously over the top at times.
If there is one thing that bothered me about this first volume however it would be how it was marketed. This might sound like an odd thing to complain about but hear me out. This is the official plot synopsis of the first volume:
The accused this time is a boy named Tento. His crime? The murder of a beloved member of the classroom! Luckily for him, the state has sent him a defense attorney—Abaku Inugami. But is this wild young lawyer skilled enough to ronpa his client off the hook?
Now, you read that and naturally you’re going to be under the impression that this is going to be a series that is at least slightly dark in tone. A student murdered a member of the classroom? That sounds pretty serious. The reality isn’t even close to that though. This is a comedy from start to finish and when you read the first chapter and discover the identity of this beloved classroom member, you’re probably going to feel about as stupid as I did for ever thinking that this was going to be a dark series.
The artist for this series is the same person who worked on classic series such as Death Note and Bakuman (this, by the way, is another reason why I thought that this series might be a bit darker in nature before I actually started to read it) but the character designs and overall artwork in this book really do a good job of capturing just how silly of a series School Judgment really is. From Pine’s magical girl moments to the “dramatic” moments when Abaku is able to prove his client’s innocence time and time again, artist Takeshi Obata really nails these moments with comedic flair.
Despite feeling silly for being fooled by the marketing on the cover, I feel strongly that School Judgment will be a fun ride. This first volume really takes the courtroom procedural shtick and runs with it well. This is definitely worth your time.
Final Grade: B+