License request day: Dragon Zakura

I’ve taken a shine to this week’s license request precisely because it doesn’t really resemble any of my recent wish-list items. It’s also part of an under-a-cloud subcategory, manga that explores the life of the delinquent. A wee handful of the 25 volumes of Hiroshi Takahashi’s Worst ever saw publication in English from Digital Manga. Beloved though it may be by tastemakers, Eiji Nonaka’s Cromartie High School still hasn’t found a new home since the shuttering of ADV.

So what makes me think the commercial prospects are any better for Norifusa Mita’s Dragon Zakura? I actually don’t think it would sell like gangbusters, and I can’t even clearly articulate why I’m eager to read it. All I can say is that I like its magazine provenance – Kodansha’s Morning – and that I find the covers ugly in kind of a mesmerizing way.

But what’s this 21-volume series about? It follows a former motorcycle gang leader turned lawyer decide to turn teacher. He joins the faculty at an on-the-brink-of-bankruptcy school and declares that he will lead at least five of its students to the academic Promised Land: admission to Tokyo University. That the kids are kind of stupid and downtrodden apparently doesn’t bother this academically inclined opportunist.

I can’t quite tell if this is a comedy or a drama, though it seems to lean on the serious side. This is probably a good thing, as the comedic stories of this stripe tend to be things like School of Rock, while the dramas are more like To Sir, with Love, and I can tell you which one I’d rather watch without even a soupcon of hesitation. And Dragon Zakura has won a couple of major manga awards: the Kodansha and the Japan Media Arts Festival Excellence Prize, both in 2005.