Manga Review: Monkey High! (Saru Yama) by Shouko Akira

I finished the last volume of “Monkey High” a few weeks ago.  I wish I had written a review sooner, because I’ve forgotten most of the details.  Anyhow “Monkey High” by Shouko Akira follows the high school relationship between Haruna, the daughter of a fallen politician, and Macharu, the happy-go-lucky son of a vegetable store owner.  Haruna, in a word, is “priviledged” and suffers culture shock when, after her father’s fall from grace, she has to go to a public school.  She compares the culture there to a “monkey mountain” in which the different factions contest each other to sit on top.  Within this society, she meets Macharu who seems to her, in actions and physical appearance, to resemble a baby monkey.  He is the polar opposite of the too-young-to-be-jaded Haruna, and, it turns out to be just what Haruna needs.  Mixed into the story is Macharu’s “frienemy,” Atsushi, who can’t deal with the fact that Haruna picked Macharu over him. 

The story never has any highs and lows and seems to be as low-key as both of the main characters.  I did enjoy how Macharu subtly reminds Haruna that she’s still a kid and I, also, enjoyed watching Macharu slowly progress to manhood.  Haruna, also, has a nice intelligent pluck about her.  She’s practical and she deals with issues head on.  What I didn’t enjoy was the character “Atsushi.”  He’s a real prick and I didn’t think his attempts at interfering with the happy couple added anything to the story. (I was really hoping that Macharu would kick Atsushi’s a$$ in a fist fight to put him into place — but, alas, Macharu is a baby monkey and both he and Haruna handle the matter in a civilized fashion.)

A word of caution to younger readers and parents, Macharu and Haruna do “consummate” their relationship and it is illustrated.  I think the chapter is well done and is a great “teachable” moment.  However, if you, as a parent, don’t think this is appropriate for your child, then you may want to consider another manga series for your child.  Here are some suggestions for younger readers:

“Beauty Pop”
“Sugar Sugar Rune”

Rating 3/5 — It’s is too low-key (almost to the point of being forgettable) to be really compelling and the Atsushi character really rubs me wrong.  However, Haruna and Macharu are likeable characters and observing their romance bloom is quite nice.

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