Everybody knows that success in life is only possible by graduating from a top-of-the-line school, which is what makes Tokyo Metropolitan Advanced Nurturing High School so attractive. Kiyotaka Ayanakoji enrolls but quickly finds out that the school is set up to encourage competition between its classes, because nothing breeds success quite like undermining your peers.
Normally when someone mentions perspective in a book, they’re talking “I said,” “Bob said,” but here I’m talking opinions. This is accentuated mostly and brilliantly in the opening scene, when an old lady on a bus needs a seat but three of the four characters offer up their reasons for not giving up their seat. It’s a great introduction to who these classmates are and a stellar way of telling us that they’re all kinda dicks.
The True Identities:
Another development method the book employs for its characters is revealing the selves they prefer keeping tucked away in the form of a skeleton in their closet. It drops hints for how Ayanakoji is a secret genius and outright showcases the scarier half to another cast member. Not to spoil too much, but have you ever met someone who’s so nice and kind that you wonder if they secretly envision microwave rays boiling your brain? Yeah, this book’s got one of those.
Should I Just Flat-out Confess the Characters are Great?
Yes, I should. While the setting and concept of competing classrooms is interesting in its own right, it’s the characters who carry the scenes. They’re a strong bunch, the main players especially so, and I think it’s an earned gold star when a story has characters who view the world in terms of whether the girls around them are attractive or not whom I don’t roll my eyes at. That might be because, though, that Ayanakoji is doing the eye-rolling for me.
The Dialogue Tags:
If I had to toss one criticism at it, it’s that it treats dialogue tags like a chef who forgot his oven mitt before grabbing a pan out of the oven. I know this is pretty typical of light novels as a medium, but others will provide context for who’s in a scene so that I don’t think whoever’s talking is some nobody in the background or one of the dudes sighing about how expensive tampons have gotten recently.
The lack of dialogue tags is a minor contentious point, and it’s overall a great read. It doesn’t have much of an overall narrative, which I usually find unappealing, but its throwing in of new scenarios keeps things fresh. It also gets major points for whispering philosophy in my ear.