S · A: Special A (S·A(スペシャル·エー) S·A (Supesharu Ē)?), also known as Special A or S.A, is a shōjo manga by Maki Minami. The series started serialization in the bimonthly magazine The Hana to Yume in 2003, and moved to the biweekly magazine Hana to Yume in 2004, after running for four chapters. The series ended after 99 chapters on March 19, 2009.
Special A has been licensed for English-language release in North America by Viz Media and in Australia and New Zealand by Madman Entertainment. The series has also been licensed in Germany, Italy, Indonesia, and Singapore.
Hikari Hanazono has always been second to Kei Takishima. When they were six years old, their pro-wrestling loving fathers introduced them to each other. Assuming that she was the best in wrestling, young Hikari challenged Kei to a wrestling match only to be thoroughly defeated by him. Ever since that fateful incident, Hikari swore to beat Kei in school grades, sporting events or any competition. To do this, she has enrolled in the same school as Kei since elementary. Now she attends Hakusenkan, an ultra elite school, that costs her carpenter father a lot of money. Hikari and Kei are the top two students in the school, with Kei holding firmly to that number one position. While Hikari considers Kei to be a rival and important friend, she is completely unaware that Kei loves her. The story primarily focuses on Hikari and her constant attempts to defeat her one and only rival, Kei, and how she finds love in their rivalry.At the end Kei proposes to her by a special way.
Hakusenkan (or Private Hakusen Academy) is the best school in the prefecture. The classes are separated into A-F based on grades. The A class is only open for the top students in each grade. The top seven within the A class, from first year to third year, are known as the Special A or SA class (hence the title). The members of SA are highly respected. The SA class has its own building, a 19th-century styled greenhouse dubbed "The School's Paradise". They also have a kitchen, where Akira makes her afternoon tea. Class attendance is optional and Hikari is the only one who chooses to attend classes. Their uniform is also different from the standard uniform. The members of the SA have been close friends since elementary school.
- Hikari Hanazono (華園 光 Hanazono Hikari?) Voiced by: Yuko Goto
- Hikari is the beautiful, accomplished protagonist of the story and is ranked 2nd in the school. She is energetic and kindhearted, but rather dense to more subtle matters, in particular love. She is the daughter of a carpenter. When she was six years old she experienced her first defeat and humiliation when she lost to Kei Takishima in a pro-wrestling match. In order to beat Kei, Hikari convinced her father to allow her to attend Kei's prestigious elite school and strives to defeat Kei at anything, from academics to athletics.
- Kei Takishima (滝島 彗 Takishima Kei?) Voiced by: Jun Fukuyama
- Kei is Hikari's rival and holds the 1st position in the entire school. He is good at everything he does and is always a smooth winner. He is the son of the CEO of Takishima Corporation. Kei has been in love with Hikari since they were children, but Hikari has been too dense to realize his feelings for her. He maintains a stoic and cool facade most of the time, except for when Hikari is in trouble.
- Jun Yamamoto (山本 純 Yamamoto Jun?) Voiced by: Tsubasa Yonaga
- Jun is ranked 3rd in school and is the son of a music producer and a talented vocalist. He is a nice guy and is usually quiet like his older twin sister, Megumi. Like Megumi, he is very possessive of Ryuu and seems to worry Ryuu as much as he worries about the two of them. Jun is rather shy around girls, which resulted in a split personality that enables him to charm almost all women effortlessly.
- Megumi Yamamoto (山本 芽 Yamamoto Megumi?) Voiced by: Ayahi Takagaki
- Megumi holds the 4th position in school and is the older twin sister of Jun. She and her brother are very close to Ryuu, whom they have known since they were children. Megumi refuses to speak so as to preserve her singing voice and writes what she wishes for people to know on a sketchpad. When she sings, her voice is so devastatingly powerful that everyone ends up dazed and disoriented afterward.
- Tadashi Karino (狩野 宙 Karino Tadashi?) Voiced by: Hiro Shimono
- Tadashi ranks 5th in school and is the son of the school's director. He suffers from a bit of wanderlust, likes to travel alone and do whatever he wants or sees fit. He enjoys eating sweets, especially food made by Akira. He seems to end up as the character most comically attacked (frequently by Akira) because of his careless comments or reckless behavior.
- Akira Toudou (東堂 明 Tōdō Akira?) Voiced by: Hitomi Nabatame
- Akira holds the 6th position in school and is very fond of Hikari; as a result, she is very protective of her. She loves afternoon tea and is very fond of cute girls. Akira apparently is in love with Tadashi although she never seems to hold back when hitting him. She is the daughter of the owner of an airline company.
- Ryuu Tsuji (辻 竜 Tsuji Ryū?) Voiced by: Kazuma Horie
- Ryuu ranks 7th in the school. He is the son of the CEO of a sports car company, and one of his family's clients is Yahiro's family. He is an animal lover and is very good at handling children. The twins, Megumi and Jun, are unusually close to him, because they have been together since childhood and it seems that Ryuu has saved them once. It is hinted that perhaps he is smarter than 7th place, but spends the majority of the time during exams worrying about Jun and Megumi, who tend to become bored or sleep during tests.
- Hikari Hanazono: Masumi Asano
- Kei Takishima: Kenichi Suzumura
- Tadashi Karino: Masakazu Morita
- Akira Toudou: Yuu Asakawa
- Jun Yamamoto: Souichiro Hoshi
- Megumi Yamamoto: Tamaki Nakanishi
- Ryuu Tsuji: Hirofumi Nojima
- Yahiro Saiga: Daisuke Namikawa
- Sakura Ushikubo: Yumi Kakazu
- Aoi Ogata: Daisuke Ono
A second drama CD was released on June 18, 2008. It focuses around the boys of the S.A class. The CD also includes background music tracks from the anime. A third drama CD was released in August 2008, focusing on the girls of the S.A class and includes more tracks of the background music from the anime. Both drama CDs use the anime cast.
- Hikari Hanazono: Yuko Goto
- Kei Takishima: Jun Fukuyama
- Tadashi Karino: Hiro Shimono
- Akira Toudou: Hitomi Nabatame
- Jun Yamamoto: Tsubasa Yonaga
- Megumi Yamamoto: Ayahi Takagaki
- Ryuu Tsuji: Kazuma Horie
- Sakura Ushikubo: Natsuko Kuwatani
In 2007's 21st issue of Hana to Yume, it was announced that S.A would have a 24 episode anime adaptation. The anime began airing in Japan on April 6, 2008.
The anime has been picked up for release in North America by Sentai Filmworks; it is distributed by Section23 Films. The first part of season 1 came out on November 10, 2009, and the second collection was released on January 19, 2010.
- 1st opening theme
- "Special Days" (episodes 1 - 12)
- Performed by Yuko Goto, Hitomi Nabatame and Ayahi Takagaki
- 1st ending theme
- "Hidamari no Gate" (陽だまりのゲート) (episodes 1 - 12, 24)
- Performed by Jun Fukuyama, Hiro Shimono, Tsubasa Yonaga, Kazuma Horie
- 2nd opening theme
- "Gorgeous 4U" (episodes 13 - 24)
- Performed by Jun Fukuyama, Hiro Shimono, Tsubasa Yonaga, Kazuma Horie
- 2nd ending theme
- "Special Gyutto Good Luck!" (スペシャル☆ギュッとGood luck!) (episodes 13 - 23)
- Performed by Yuko Goto, Hitomi Nabatame, and Ayahi Takagaki
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Katherine Dacey compared the central two characters as "a gender reversed Frank Butler and Annie Oakley", and noted that Kei comes off as "rather sexist". Erin Finnegan disliked the manga, because the secondary characters were poorly developed and she felt the story was misogynistic. Jennifer Dunbar enjoyed the wish-fulfilment of seeing rich kids "getting to do whatever they want" without being conceited about this, but felt the complications in the last volume were boring. Jason Thompson disliked the "action slapstick" of the first two volumes, but felt that even after the two leads became more fleshed out as characters through their romance that the series was "founded on cliches" and felt the rest of the cast was underdeveloped.
- "Special A Shōjo Manga to be Animated for Television". Anime News Network. 2007-10-04. Retrieved 2007-10-08.
- "Maki Minami's Special A Manga to End in Japan in March". Anime News Network. 2009-03-05. Retrieved 2009-03-27.
- "Another RECORD-BREAKING Anime on TV5".
- "Section23 Films Announces November Releases". Anime News Network. 2009-09-02.
- Special A - official site for the anime (Japanese)
- Special A at Shojo Beat
- S.A (manga) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- S.A (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- ANN Sub DVD Collection 1 review
- ANN Sub DVD Collection 2 review