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Truly A School Comprised of Delinquents

The DVD cover of Yōsei Gakuen: Yankī-kun to Yankī-chan.

The DVD cover of Yōsei Gakuen: Yankī-kun to Yankī-chan.

I was never a delinquent when I was a student, just an incredibly lazy student. My Japanese teachers would certainly disagree with this statement, though, because they thought I was both.

One facet of Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail I enjoy is how he’s willing to write side stories that are completely unrelated to the main narrative. In fact, some of the stories Mashima has written aren’t connected to the narrative at all. Truth be told, a handful have nothing to do with Fairy Tail in the least bit. One such short story was included as a mini-booklet with the limited edition twenty-seventh volume of Fairy Tail. Yet, as a limited edition release, one booklet was hardly enough to entice fans of the series. As such, an OVA (original video anime) of the mini-booklet was included with the limited edition twenty-seventh volume manga. Honestly, the anime adaptation of the short story, Yōsei Gakuen: Yankī-kun to Yankī-chan (妖精学園 ヤンキーくんとヤンキーちゃん) was far better than the printed version. There were a number of reasons for this, but they all centered on two major factors: the story was a play on the characters’ personalities and the overarching setting of Fairy Tail. More specifically, the story centered on one or two different character traits and blew them out of proportion, which, in turn augmented the narrative of the Phantom Lord story arc to great effect. However, it was the high school setting that brought out the best aspects of the comedy in the story.

It can be incredibly difficult for authors to parody their own work as they have too deep of an investment in their characters, setting, and narrative. As such, many of the best parody and satirical works of any given anime or manga series are actually fan-created works. Granted, fan-created works in Japan have the connotation of being pornographic. However, there’s a wide selection of non-pornographic works as well. In fact, there have been cases when publishing companies will take fan works and publish them for the general market. It’s a rare occurrence, but publishing companies such as ASCII Media Works and Hakusensha have done this in the past. I can’t speak on any authority about how manga authors feel about the sale of fan works that parody and satirize their work, but what I can say is the fan work market is a boon to the anime and manga industries, as well as for the Japanese economy. Thus, if authors were less invested in their works, it wouldn’t be odd if a manga author parodied or satirized his or her own work. Yet, very few have.

While I don’t consider Hiro Mashima a great author, I enjoy how he’s willing to explore his work Fairy Tail in ways one might not consider. For example, his short story Welcome to Fairy Hills took a deeper look at the women’s dormitory of the wizard’s guild Fairy Tail. Of course, the female characters were a bit oversexualized in that particular story. But honestly, it added a few layers to those same characters readers might not have thought of. Yōsei Gakuen: Yankī-kun to Yankī-chan was in the same vein. Yet, rather than placing the story in the context of the larger narrative of Fairy Tail, Mashima examined the characters through the lens of high school life and delinquents. In a certain respect the main characters aren’t that far from delinquents in the main narrative of Fairy Tail. However, placing all the characters in a high school setting allowed for comedic interactions to be presented that weren’t seen in the main story. A majority of this came from the characters’ personalities, but it also came from how fans had certain expectations about them.

Four of the zodiacs as teachers.  Left to right: Taurus, Aquarius, Scorpio, and Aries.

Four of the zodiacs as teachers. Left to right: Taurus, Aquarius, Scorpio, and Aries.

For instance, the four main characters, Natsu Dragneel, Lucy Heartfilia, Grey Fullbuster, and Erza Scarlet, retained many of their character traits from the main story of Fairy Tail, but they were augmented to fit certain Japanese classroom personalities. In this case, Natsu and Grey were the class clowns and troublemakers, Lucy was an innocent transfer student, and Ezra was the stern class representative. These roles weren’t far from their regular roles, but when placed within a school setting it breathed new life into the characters. This was especially true considering there wasn’t much comedic expansion Mashima could do with the characters in the main series other than have them interact with new allies. Yet, as students there were multiple ways to take the comedy seen in Fairy Tail and place them in this setting. For example, Natsu and Grey always had a rivalry in Fairy Tail, but in Yōsei Gakuen: Yankī-kun to Yankī-chan it was presented as the two fighting over food preferences and which part of the school was their territory. It was a silly thought, particularly the latter, but not that uncommon in high schools.

However, it was the play on all the characters that made the OVA humorous beyond belief. Yes, the main focus was on Lucy and Ezra, but all the major characters in the wizard guild Fairy Tail were seen at one point or another filling unexpected roles. True, many of the characters were students, but characters such as Happy, Carla, and the different zodiacs taking the roles of teachers was amusing. While the zodiacs were a better fit to be teachers, the idea Happy and Carla had any control over the other characters was unthinkable. Yet, the limited screen time they had added to the idea these characters were in charge of a body of students. However, what was possibly the most entertaining role reversal was with the characters Makarov Dreyar, Macao Conbolt, and Wakaba Mine. One would expect these three characters would have filled the roles of school administrators, but this was far from the truth because they were in fact students as well. These were bit parts in the OVA, which actually worked for the joke, but the mere thought of three older men as high school students constantly talking about spending a night out on the town was comedic gold.

Where Yōsei Gakuen: Yankī-kun to Yankī-chan shined in regards to the setting, though, was how the crux of the story retooled the Phantom Lord story arc. So we have an understanding of the arc, this story arc centered on the rivalry between the wizard guilds Fair Tail and Phantom Lord in Fairy Tail. As a school story, this arc was fashioned as a fight between rival school delinquents but added the twist it was spurred on by Ezra’s date preparations and not the abduction of Lucy. By shifting the focus to Ezra, this actually brought out the humor inherent in her character as well as her relationship with Jellal Fernandes. More specifically, Ezra was always portrayed as a calm and collected character who always thought of her friends and allies. Thus, by playing up this character trait it allowed Mashima to display how passionate and violent Ezra could become while also joking about her feelings towards Jellal. As such, this defied viewer’s expectations of Ezra, while still retaining the core of what made her entertaining in the main series.

Yet, the retooling of the Phantom Lord story arc went much further than redefining a handful of the characters. In fact, it kept a majority of the major plot points intact, but played them for a lark. For instance, one of the events that spurred the fight between the two wizard guilds in the main narrative was the way three members of Fairy Tail were brutally beaten. It was a powerful and shocking moment in the series. Yet, in the OVA the same imagery was used, but played for laughs by replacing the three characters with Makarov, Macao, and Wakaba. What’s more, the message the antagonists left behind for the characters read more like a traditional Japanese letter of challenge rather than a slight against the guild’s honor. Granted, the tone of this scene in the OVA was far more somber than the rest of the story, but it still parodied the Phantom Lord story arc effectively. However, it was the climatic action scene that lampooned the arc the best. Part of this stemmed from the fact it took a grand battle and simplified it to a schoolyard brawl, but it also ridiculed the major scenes.

Makarov, Macao, and Wakaba beaten in the same manner as the main series.

Makarov, Macao, and Wakaba beaten in the same manner as the main series.

For example, one of the main skirmishes in the Phantom Lord story arc was between Grey and Juvia Lockster. True, there were humorous elements to their battle, yet in Yōsei Gakuen: Yankī-kun to Yankī-chan it exaggerated the infatuation Juvia had for Grey. In fact, the OVA worked this infatuation earlier into the story with an obvious line of dialog where Juvia stated she felt restless while staring directly at Lucy. However, during the climatic action scene in the OVA, what took multiple episodes and chapters of the anime and manga series to present was shortened to nearly one sentence: Juvia trying to proclaim her love for Grey. The mere fact the essence of Grey and Juvia’s relationship was summed up in less than a minute was not just spectacular, but incredibly entertaining.

The one aspect of the OVA that was far superior to the mini-booklet short story was how it expanded on it. Most of this was in the minor details, such as the fight or Ezra, Lucy, and Wendy Marvell’s shopping for clothes, but it also came from the interactions between the characters and showing the characters different roles in a school setting. At first this may not seem as if it added much to the story, but in actuality it padded out the material enough to give viewers a fully formed narrative. True, some of the additional material was used to fill time, yet in a certain sense it also added to the setting of the story. For instance, I said above Happy, Carla, and the different zodiacs were teachers at the school. But, in order for viewers to fully comprehend their roles as teachers there needed to be some time relegated to showing viewers this. As such, the few minutes where the zodiacs displayed their talents never felt wasted. Even the throwaway moments with Happy and Carla had a wonderful payoff at the end of the OVA, making their presence welcome. While some people may want a one-to-one translation of the source material into an anime, adding this sort of content actually rounds out a story rather than maintaining certain plot elements simply as a kernel of an idea.

By comparison to the first two Fairy Tail OVAs, Yōsei Gakuen: Yankī-kun to Yankī-chan was far better in its presentation and story. I say this because the first was a compilation of the anime series and the second seemed to focus on the oversexualization of the female characters too much despite adding to the series as a whole. Yet, with Yōsei Gakuen: Yankī-kun to Yankī-chan we received a fun little story that played with the characters’ personalities and the Phantom Lord story arc. This was especially wonderful considering, rather than placing this story in the middle of the main narrative, it expertly used a school setting and ultimately let one or two of the comedic aspects of the characters shine. Reworking the Phantom Lord arc also made the OVA’s story resemble West Side Story in that it placed two “gangs” against each other. As such, we received elements of school life and delinquency in one story. However, it was how the OVA expanded on the source material that made it far superior to that source material. Although the additions were minor, they helped flesh out certain aspects of the story, as well as create a rich environment for the characters to occupy. While I wouldn’t recommend the OVA to everyone, fans of Fairy Tail and original works may be interested in watching it.

Work Info
Title:
Welcome to Fairy Hills!! (ようこそフェアリーヒルズ!! Yokoso Fairy Hills!!)
Under: A-1 Pictures, Kodansha, Shonen Magazine
Official Site: http://gentei.kodansha.co.jp/fairytail/
More Info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairy_Tail

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