Warning: Here be spoilers
“Say you’ve got ten steps… and using just evidence, you’ve gotten to step seven.”
At the start of the first volume of School Judgment, I was both skeptical of and charmed by the eccentric atmosphere of Phoenix Wright meets afterschool special (with just enough of a splash of magical girl references).
Volume 2 picks up directly where we left off, with Pine discovering Shiratori in the storehouse where students have been buying magical powder. In a twist from previous cases, though Shiratori has been accused of being the Masked Dude, Pine isn’t ready to believe that she could be the culprit. This chapter treats us briefly to another side of Pine – one that struggles to live up to expectations while still doing the right thing. The cliffhanger case, however, is quickly wrapped up in one session.
Chapter 10 gives a 1-page glimpse at “The Bloody Classroom Session” again (referenced briefly in School Judgment, volume 1), this time with the face of a character that looks quite like Inugami. From here, we move straight into the next case, which centers around two art students with identical paintings. Meanwhile, Higashide has a run-in with a mysterious ninja in the school hallways.
The masked ninja is soon exposed as Kotaru Sarutobi, the attorney who will be facing off against Inugami in his plagiarism trial. Following Sarutobi’s entrance, our suspicions are confirmed – Inugami, along with Sarutobi and another female student, were not only the sole survivors of the Bloody Classroom Session, but the prime suspects.
While the mystery of this so-called “First Classroom Arbitration Session” is pretty interesting, I’m not a fan of how the manga chooses to reveal insignificant details one page at a time, every few chapters. There should be an air of mystery here, but the teasers are so short and repetitive that they get lost among the character antics and numerous cases.
The volume’s final case – the deadly appearance of numerous goldfish in the school pool – introduces us to Pine’s rather intimidating father, Raichi Papa. Raichi Papa pins the crime on a particularly friendly-seeming student named Satomi Yamada and reveals that he will be prosecuting the case.
With such little emphasis on characterization, I enjoy that Pine is being fleshed out. What began as the typical stubborn/angry girl stereotype started shifting into the image of a lonely student who honestly enjoys having a rival and friends for what appears to be the first time. Surprisingly, considering he’s the protagonist, Inugami’s character remains fairly flat – he is a competent lawyer with a knack for solving mysteries, and that’s about it.
Volume 2 wraps up in a neat bow. Every case is solved (and with a reasonably heartwarming ending, except maybe for the goldfish massacre). There are no cliffhangers, no hints of what’s to come.
Ultimately, I’m a little mixed at this point. The series is definitely fun, but I’d like to see more characters than just Pine being examined. As a big fan of anthologies, I liked the setup at the very beginning. Two volumes in, it’s starting to feel a little too episodic. There’s clearly an overarching plot – the Bloody Classroom Session and Higashide’s true identity being the primary focus – but that plot is given very little attention. I’m hoping future volumes will not only bring a little attention back to the big picture, but also multi-chapter smaller cases. The kind that aren’t quickly wrapped up in 20 pages with an easy answer. Volume 3 of School Judgment is expected on June 7th – here’s hoping!