S.A (Special A) Volume 1 by Maki Minami (amazon)
S.A. is a manga that ends up being crushed under the weight of its too familiar premise. Hikari has been obsessed with the idea of beating her rival Kei since childhood. Both of their fathers trained them in professional wrestling moves and when a young Hikari was soundly beaten when she challenged Kei to a match she decided to dedicate her life to his defeat. Many years later Hikari is attending an exclusive high school with an overly complicated student ranking system that results in the top seven students receiving special privileges and uniforms. As hard as Hikari studies, she always ends up in the number two position. Kei effortlessly remains at the top of the rankings thanks to his photographic memory.
Every single chapter of the book explains the ranking system and introduces all the members of the Special A class. While I understand why the episodic nature of manga makes it important to bring people up to speed with the story, S.A was unusually repetitive. Kei and Hikari have five other companions at school whose characters aren’t really flushed out beyond the brief sketches that introduce them at the start of every chapter.
S.A. does seem to improve a little bit towards the end of the book. The art becomes a little bit more fluid, with better facial expressions for the characters. There’s a little more development with Kei and Hikari’s relationship. I just wish that the supporting characters weren’t so superficial. I think the whole boy/girl school rivalry story was done better in Kare Kano, and if you want to read about wacky hijnks at an exclusive private school, Ouran High School Host Club is much funnier. Overall, this isn’t a series that I’m likely to invest more time in although I’m a little curious to see if the anime version of this series is more interesting than the manga.