Hey y’all, welcome to a new series that I’m starting every other month called Book Bloggin’! I will be discussing different manga and light novels that I’m reading at the time or keeping up with regularly! The goal is to keep with one series at a time reviewing one volume at a time until completion of a series (or until I’m caught up with English translations, at least). While each post will be talking about a particular volume, the format and structure of each post may be a bit different depending on what’s being discussed and what there is to discuss, but either way, it will be an interesting type of post series nonetheless!
This month we’re starting out with the dramatic and thought-provoking thriller Classroom of the Elite, so let’s get into it and talk a bit about it!
Meritocratic systems are inherently meant to cause exploitation, but what happens when those exploited fight back against the system itself?
That might sound like a grand statement to make, but that’s basically what makes Classroom of the Elite’s concept so appealing to me and, likely, to many others as well. With a bunch of dysfunctional students in one class attempting to rise to the top of the system to meet their own goals, it’s hard to not make the direct connection to the real world and the hierarchy that inevitably takes place. It’s one that the author directly intended to make a connection to as well, according to the afterword, and it makes for a pretty interesting story too.
Classroom of the Elite paints these sorts of pictures from the beginning of volume one, making allusions to many real life inequalities and big philosophical questions towards the reader intending to showcase how real life’s systems are inherently unfair and flawed to those less privileged. With our point of view set through our main character, Ayanokouji Kiyotaka, who takes a very neutral approach towards anything that causes him problems or trouble, it’s an excellent way to give the reader some room in which to work out these mentally philosophical problems of inequality that present themselves throughout the first volume (something that was heavily presented in the anime as well).
The first volume really sets up the idea that the entirety of Class D, the lowest class in the system of the school, is the naive new partaker of the system which knows nothing about the ins-and-outs of the system itself, and therefore will be exploited to the highest extent because of it. It’s likely for this reason that they are the ones that are deemed the least likely to survive in the outside world and, therefore, are looked down upon by the rest of the school. This is also proved by the point system in place by the school to allow those who try to profit in terms of the school’s currency of “points” which are equivalent to one yen for each point they receive. With these two hierarchies established, it’s not hard to make a connection to capitalism or other economic systems that thrive on the same premises.
The author talks about this a bit in the afterword of the first novel as well, stating that this was based on his experiences when he felt tossed into the outside world once he left mandatory education systems, and this is likely his take on what that experience can feel like. I’m sure to many that this isn’t an unfamiliar basis either, which is probably one of the reasons that this novel has been highly regarded and praised by many, despite it’s at times highly philosophical nature in its monologues. I typically am not a huge fan of novels that act like this, but from the perspective of Kiyotaka and his dialogue with close classmates such as Suzune Horikita and Kikyou Kushida, it makes it really relatable despite the relatively high-stakes scenarios that take place within the novel.
“When I think back to my student days, I recall everyone continuously telling me that I had to study if I wanted to get into a good university, if I wanted to get a job a good field, if I wanted to have a good life. Recently, I’ve had my doubts as to whether that advice was actually correct.”Author Syougo Kinugasa – Classroom of the Elite Light Novel Volume 1 Postscript
Both Suzune and Kikyou’s presence within the volume definitely ground the setting a bit, in order to make it feel like a more “normal” high school setting story, although these characters have both presented themselves as far from normal. Even Kiyotaka has presented himself as “too normal” to many of his classmates and teachers and it’s obvious to the reader that he is also just as abnormal as the rest of them, despite him trying to upkeep his normal appearance. Despite this though, much of the dialogue in the middle of the volume makes the characters feel like normal highschool students that talk about normal highschool things, which is a positive considering some of the other topics discussed within the novel.
Honestly, for a first volume of a light novel, many parts of the story feel unlike many light novels that are written today (I’m looking at you isekai/otherworld/fantasy novels) and feel more like a traditional light novel meant for easier reads among young adults/teenagers, despite some of the concepts likely not presenting themselves well among the younger demographics. Still though, the novel so far has presented the story in an interesting way and hasn’t really strayed too far from the path that the anime established. So if you managed to watch that at any point in time and enjoyed it, then you’ll likely enjoy this as well if you like light novel formats or prefer reading text instead of watching anime.
I will say though that one of my favorite parts of reliving this story within the light novel format was the dramatic reveal midway into the volume about how the students thought they were living this easy, luxurious life at this school with no consequences for their actions and how the homeroom teacher for their class presents the cold, hard reality to them that they earned no funds for the month because of their poor performance and behavior. The comparisons the author used through the eyes of Kiyotaka comparing it to company evaluations were so spot on and thematically on point that it was a thrill to read just as much as it was to watch in the anime. The entire first volume has crux moments like this and all of them are well-executed in terms of just keeping the tension and suspense high; something that I love seeing in novels. Absolutely awesome.
On the whole, I really enjoy the concepts presented in the novel and the characters will surely become more interesting as the story goes on. As the novel continues, I’m sure there will be a lot more to talk about regarding them than just talking about some of the established patterns of the novel, but this is what I found most interesting among revisiting this series after watching the anime back when it was originally airing. I’m interested to see how the novels continue to develop in comparison to the anime and also how the novels extend beyond that as well, so I hope you continue with following my thoughts on this journey as well!