Girls Kingdom, Vol. 1

By Nayo and Shio Sakura. Released in Japan by GL Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Philip Reuben.

Despite the fact that this is a review of Vol. 1 of a fairly new light novel series, the one thing I took away from it most was nostalgia. This book is drenched in Maria-sama Ga Miteru and Strawberry Panic, two series from the 00s that defined a generation of yuri, for better and worse. (In that order – Maria-sama for Better, Strawberry Panic for worse.) I think the author is well aware of what the audience wants here, and is quite happy to give it to them with the maximum amount of ridiculousness. There may be heartwarming moments and genuine yuri in future volumes, though I’m skeptical. What we get here, though, is one girl’s entry into a magical kingdom, one where she ends up having the Golden Ticket – almost literally – that puts her among the elite. And we get another girl, at the pinnacle of that elite, and her desire to try to have as little to do with it as possible. They need each other. They make a great pair.

Misaki is a young girl starting her first day at a new school. She runs out of her house screaming she’s going to be late (no toast, sadly), but ends up being VERY late, as the school is ridiculously huge. So late she jumps the gate – an expellable offense – but it’s OK, as Himeko is standing there, and is highly amused at the fact that a) Misaki jumped the gate at ALL, and b) Misaki seems to know NOTHING about the school that she’s starting in today. So she gets Misaki to agree to be her maid, in exchange for getting her out of being expelled. Misaki is rather baffled by this, then finds out why this school that she signed up for but knew nothing about is free: the half of the class she’s in are all training to be maids, so they may serve the OTHER half of the class. Which has Himeko, who is daughter of the Chairman of the Board.

As you can see, this premise is bananas, for many, many reasons. Misaki’s ignorance of EVERYTHING about her new school is hilarious. A school for maids-in-training and their rich young mistresses is so egregiously classist that your jaw will drop. Misaki’s roommate Kirara, who in any other series like this would be the protagonist, does things that made me physically recoil from my phone as I was reading the book. There are identical twins – with the same first name – who appear to be on the maid side for shits and giggles, which is fine as that’s how they live everything else in their life. Himeko is the perfect rich young girl, right down to living like an absolute slob and not giving a rat’s ass what anyone thinks of her. The book is basically a series of train wrecks set to prose.

That said, I had a grin on my face reading it. If you can put up with its silliness, it’s fun. If you ever saw or read Strawberry Panic, it’s required reading.

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