Warning: Here Be Spoilers
“Abaku Inugami would later state that ‘the identity of the perp in this case was the saddest one yet.’”
I wasn’t going to continue on with School Judgment after my last review, but when I discovered that this would be the last volume, I figured I may as well.
There were two main things I was hoping for during School Judgment’s run. Character growth was one, since the quick stories and varied cast didn’t seem to allow for much. The other was more focus on the big, overarching plot. School Judgment is not about a few petty art thefts or pranks. We start out the series knowing that, previously, there was a massive school slaughter, with three survivors. Flashes of this event show up periodically, but tend to reveal very little information. In summary – if it’s going to happen right, it’s going to happen in this book.
Because this is the last, my plan was to keep this review light on spoilers. I’ll give some details and my overall thoughts, but don’t expect me to reveal major plot twists from the final chapters.
Book 3 opens on a meeting of the Children’s Division Special Investigations Unit of the Tokyo Public Prosecutor’s Office. The topic at hand is Tento – our young friend who was suspected of killing Suzuki the fish in the first volume. No data can be found for Tento. What – or who? – could cause such a thing?
Meanwhile, at the school, we’re treated to a rather ominous countdown and timeline. Tento runs across Airin and Hatakeyama, who force him to promise he won’t tell anyone that he saw them there. Other students begin arriving at school, including Inugami and Higashide, just in time to find Shiratori lying in the animal shed. Luckily, she has survived the blunt head trauma, though she remains unconscious after her rescue.
Inugami immediately sets to trying to solve the “locked room” attempted murder, but before he gets far, Higashide arrests Tento as the suspect. Back in Tokyo, a young prosecutor named Yui Kijima is introduced. Finally, we have the third survivor of the Bloody Classroom Session.
Sidenote: I’m not sure how sold I am by a super-young schoolgirl nicknamed the “torturing prosecutor” and decked out in a whip and leather almost-bondage gear, but I’ll just lump that in with the other School Judgment eccentricities.
It turns out there was a secret fourth survivor of the classroom massacre, who Inugami knows to be the true perpetrator. This fourth individual disappeared, pinning the crime on the other three students left behind. Now, (s)he has come back, under the name Red Ogre, and threatened Inugami to discover their true identity by graduation.
With evidence and witness testimonies mounting against Tento, Inugami and Yui go head to head for the first time since they were in school together, and the resulting tension is actually pretty compelling!
I was mostly happy with this final volume of School Judgment. It does still have a bit of “afterschool special” feeling to it, but there is a lot more focus on the characters in this volume. Sadly, Pine was pretty quickly relegated to side character, which was a shame after they built her up so much more in the second half of School Judgement volume 2.
The truth behind the Bloody Classroom Session was genuinely surprising and heartbreaking, and I have to admit that I thought the story was going in a completely different direction than it did. There are a few other big reveals as the final chapter (which is one big wrap-up) takes place, with some being more believable than others.
Overall, I’m not sure I’d recommend School Judgment as a great shonen read. It was fun, and sometimes interesting. The cases always had surprise endings, and the characters were cute. But it was not the top of its genre, and in the end there are better mystery, shonen, horror, and school life series out there. If you’re looking for a fun, quick series though? Why not give it a shot? The ending made it worth my reading time, for sure!