Imperfect series, but still very enjoyable.
Gakuen Alice was my childhood manga. Even after not reading it for years, I still remember quite vividly of its arcs, characters, and somewhat unusual and dark humor for Shojo manga.
this series back then, I'm still now, in a way. After growing up, I learned to nitpicking and analyze every series that I see, and I can't help but realize some flaw of this series.
- The art: It was distinct and above average compared to a lot of mangas I could think of. Nowhere near as grand or fabulous as the classic Roseof Versailles or Utena, but still pretty good, at least in the beginning to the middle. The second half (Flashback arc-the final chapter), you can see some aspects suffers. People in this manga now have some very disproportionate body, the men in particular, as they have twig arms with abnormally large torso. The background is not as detailed as the beginning, and sometimes I can't make it clear what is happening on the scene.
- The characters: Mikan is The Messiah of the series, she's 'the light that pierced the darkness' for so many, many people. The plot is all about her, the characters are all fawning over her (those who don't are evil or jerkass). She has no faults, not one that matters. And every bad thing that happened in the series is someone else's fault. She's not that bad of a character though, because she did matured and develop. Meanwhile, Natsume is the typical Troubled Bad Boy archetype Shojo manga so very fond of. He's a rude and possessive to Mikan in the beginning, and he's rude and possessive to Mikan at the end. He's supposedly ~healed by Mikan's love~ but he's still a brat and unpleasant to people not named Mikan or Ruka. Sorry fangirls, I don't like him.
- The story: the first half is the introduction of the academy and the mystery behind them, with Mikan's relationship with her friends. There's occasional overarching plot going on with AAO but not explored much further until later. The Flashback arc is where the drama starts running and not looking back. It's rather jarring compared to relatively light hearted first half. And the drama continues full speed until the end.
All in all, it's a story with memorable characters, lots of heartwarming moments, interesting world, and for me, a rare story with positive interaction between girls is one of the main driving force of the plot.