Special A is a fun series to watch about the silly antics and crazy adventures of a group of intellectually gifted, super wealthy students. The anime is lighthearted for the most part, with a satisfying ending. In some ways it’s a bit over the top, but I love how the animation portrays human emotions so well through exaggerated expressions, movements, and symbols.
Special A starts out with a rather random beginning sequence, but an intriguing plot eventually develops after the first few episodes. There are actually several storylines involving various characters that are focused on at different times throughout the series. The second half, especially toward the end, will leave you eager to find out what happens next.
The prestigious Hakusenkan Private Academy, the best school in the prefecture, is the main setting of the story. The elite Special A or S.A. class is only open to the top seven students in that school. The members of S.A. are highly respected by other students, with the exception of a few that dislike them. The S.A. class has its own building, a 19th-century conservatory-style greenhouse that also has a kitchen. Since the S.A. students are so smart, class attendance is optional, and they usually just hang out in the conservatory.
Another thing that sets the S.A. students apart is that they are not only intellectually gifted, but they all (except one) come from extremely wealthy families. These teens think nothing of jetting off to Hawaii for spring break, going on a shopping trip to London, or having lavish birthday parties with hundreds of guests. They have limos and helicopters at their disposal, and one guy even gave his friend a blank check, saying “name your price” when offering to buy his villa. But the refreshing thing about them is that these teens are not in the least bit selfish or conceited. The S.A. students genuinely care about others regardless of social status.
I had trouble keeping all the Special A characters straight at first, so here are their descriptions to help organize them in your mind. The anime centers on these seven 16-year-old S.A. members:
Kei Takishima is ranked in 1st position for the entire school. The son of the CEO of Takishima Corporation, he is often called upon to help with company business. Kei has been secretly in love with Hikari Hanazono since they were children. While Kei maintains a stoic and cool facade most of the time, he loses his composure whenever Hikari is in trouble or gets too close to another boy. Still, he likes to tease Hikari and call her “Miss Second Place.”
Hikari Hanazono is ranked 2nd in the school. She is energetic and kindhearted, but a terrible cook and completely oblivious to matters of love. Unlike her peers, she comes from an ordinary family. Hikari and Kei’s fathers met and became friends through their mutual interest in pro-wrestling. Hikari’s father, a carpenter, taught his daughter how to fight, but she lost to Kei in a wrestling match when they were young. Ever since then, Hikari has strived to defeat Kei at anything and everything, and she convinced her father to allow her to attend Kei’s school so she could keep trying to beat him.
Jun and Megumi Yamamoto, in 3rd and 4th position respectively, are a twin brother and sister. Their parents are in the music business. Megumi is a talented vocalist who doesn’t talk in order to preserve her voice. She writes everything that she wants to say on a sketch pad. Her voice is so powerful that it knocks everyone down when she sings at close range. Jun is a rather shy guy, especially around girls, until his secret alter ego is revealed later on.
Tadashi Karino ranks 5th in school and is the son of the academy’s director. He likes to ride his motorcycle and go exploring. Tadashi seems to end up as the character most comically attacked (frequently by Akira), because of his careless comments or reckless behavior. He enjoys eating sweets, especially food made by Akira.
Akira Toudou holds the 6th position and is Hikari’s best friend. As such, Akira is very protective of Hikari–especially when it comes to Kei and Hikari being together. Akira loves afternoon tea and shopping. She is the daughter of the owner of an airline company. Akira really likes Tadashi even though she constantly beats him up (which he takes humorously).
Ryu Tsuji ranks 7th, placing him at the bottom of the S.A. class, although his test scores are a poor reflection of his intellectual prowess. The son of the CEO of a sports car company, Ryu is an animal lover and has his own private menagerie of exotic animals. Ryu is a really nice guy, always willing to help, and the twins often stay with him when their parents are away.
There are some minor, but by no means unimportant, supporting characters including:
Sui Takishima is Kei’s 11-year-old brother, with whom he has a rather strained relationship. Sui feels very inferior to his older brother, who is so good at everything that Sui thinks he will never be able to reach Kei’s level. As a result, Sui refuses to take his studies seriously. When Hikari becomes a tutor to Sui, she tries to bring the brothers closer together.
Yahiro Saiga, 16, is heir to the Saiga Financial Group, even higher in status than the Takishima Group. He has always been suspicious of those who would exploit the wealthy. Yahiro was a childhood friend of Kei and Akira but now he attends a different school, Kokusen Academy. Yahiro is a mischievous trouble maker with a sinister side; there is an unpleasant history between him and Akira.
Sakura Ushikubo, 16, is the heiress to the Ushikubo Medical Manufacturing Group. Yahiro and her both attend the same school. Sakura comes from a family with a strict moral code, and she hates dishonest people with a passion. Because of Hikari’s straightforward and honest nature, she and Sakura immediately become friends.
Aoi Ogata is the 19-year-old secretary for the Takishima Group, and he often serves as the President’s emissary. Aoi has a photographic memory and his remarkable abilities come very close to Kei’s, although his personality is rather cold and ruthless.
The anime series primarily revolves around Hikari and her constant failed attempts to defeat her longtime rival, Kei. However, while the first set of episodes focus exclusively on the Kei/Hikari rivalry, subsequent episodes develop the other characters more and more. Each of them becomes likable in his or her own way, and I love how they all come together at the end, utilizing their special gifts to full advantage in order to help Hikari. It’s the best anime ending I’ve seen in a long time.
Special A originally ran from April-September 2008, with 24 episodes. You can watch it now on Amazon Prime. Or buy the Special A: Complete Collection on DVD.