Animal Academy: Hakobune Hakusho Volume One is a manga by Moyamu Fujino, and it was published in North America by Tokyopop in 2009. The series is rated “Y” for youth ages ten and up. After reading this volume, I agree with this rating.
The main character of Animal Academy is Neko Fukuta, a recent middle school graduate who’s having trouble being accepted by any high schools. She is overjoyed when she receives an acceptance letter from Morimori High. However, when she gets to the school, she discovers it’s actually a school for animals who have taken on a human form to learn how to be human. Even after discovering the truth about the school, Neko still wants to attend since no other school will accept her. She is allowed to stay, but she is supposed to keep the fact that she’s a human a secret from the other students.
The first person Neko meets is a girl named Miiko Suzuhara, a girl who is actually a cat. She’s a cute girl, but Neko quickly discovers that Miiko can be rather bossy, spoiled and jealous. The two girls end up being classmates and roommates. She also meets Kotaro Araki, a boy who is actually a fox; he’s a “cool” boy who seems to have a crush on Miiko. Neko also meets Yuichi Takuma through Kotaro, and Kotaro claims that Yuichi is also a human. Can Neko make it at Morimori High, and is she going to be able to keep the fact that she’s actually a human a secret on campus?
When reading this manga volume, it’s readily apparent through the writing that the story is being aimed at a young audience. For me, I really have to employ my “willing suspension of disbelief” in order to accept the basic premise that Neko was accepted to this school through a misunderstanding of her name (“neko” is the Japanese word for cat). Also, Neko and Yuichi start hanging out near the end of the volume and talking about television shows and other human things; the students nearby in the classroom don’t seem to react to these conversations at all. Since one of the conditions for Neko to stay at the school is to keep being human a secret, you would think that these human characters would be a little more discreet in their conversations.
I also thought the art in this volume wasn’t anything terribly spectacular. Fujino utilizes wide eyes for practically all of the characters, and there’s a sense of “sameness” to many of them. The main way to tell the characters apart is by their hairstyles.
The audience for this manga is ultimately the same audience who enjoys the Cartoon Network animated series, My Gym Partner’s a Monkey, since they both have a similar premise (a name misunderstanding allowing a human to enroll in an animal school).