High expectations & Dragonzakura

If you have high expectations for your kid(s) … like …getting into them into Todai (Tokyo University), according to the following feature article get your kid(s) to read DRAGONZAKURA! …






THE number of applicants to Tokyo University reportedly rose by some 20 percent this year, thanks mostly to a popular comic book that offers insider tips on how to get into Japan’s most prestigious college.

most of the increase came from smaller cities and towns. That was to be expected, said Mr Yohei Sadoshima, 26, who edits Dragonzakura, the manga that has become a big hit with Japanese college aspirants. Students in top-tier schools in big cities are said to be familiar with the exam know-how needed to get into first -rank colleges, but not students who live outside major cities.

“They are the ones who proably got the most out of Dragonzakura,” said Mt Sadoshima, a Todai graduate in English and American literature.

Dragonzakura has been serialised since 2003 in a manga weekly magazine called Morning, put out by Japan’s biggest publisher Kodansha.

The project almost did not materialise.

Manga author Norifusa Mita, 48. told Kodansha he would like to create a news story about how a teacher succeeds in getting 100 students into Todai — the name by which Tokyo University is commonly known.

But Mr Sadoshima initially vetoed the idea.

“From my own experience, getting into Todai was such a cinch that I figured there would be noreal climax to the story,” he said.

Mr Mita recalled being floored.

“The Japanese generally believe that it is very difficult to get into Todai. was shocked to hear him say that it was easy, so I thought it would also shock our readers to hear it, ” he said.

Mr Mita’s hunch was spot on. Dragonzakura turned out to be his biggest-ever hit and the 12 collected volumes out so far have together sold more than five million copies.

Though most of the tips it offers were gathered from professionals in the art of acing examinations, some of them came from Mr Sadoshima himself.

He had attended Nada Senior High School in Kobe, one of Japan’s most famous top-tier schools.

“All my friends had their sights set on Todai. We knew what we had to do to get in, And we assuymed kdis in other schools knew too. It was that siple, he explained.

But the popularity of Dragonzakura shows that kids in lesser schools are very much in the dark.

The manga’s main character is gangster-turned-lawyer Kenji Sakuragi who takes it upon himself to teach two no-hoper students how to get in to Todai n order to ainse the quality of their third-rate school and save it from bankruptcy.

Among the tips offered: Aim to get into the science faculty as the competition there is lower than for arts; and bone up on problems in school textbooks throoughly as Todai only demands that you learn your schoolwork well, nothing more.

it is by no means a Cinderella story, but it is certainly a confidence-builder as it gives the message that everyone stands a chance if he or she goes about a task the right way.

Post cards from high schcool students expressing their gratitude flood Kodansha every week.

Although Kodansha’s Morning is basically targeted at salarymen in their 30s, housewives are also buying the weekly these days for their teenage children because of Dragonzakura.

The manga has spawned many related drill books and even a television drama series. Its title comes from the name given to the sakura tree that the main character planted in the school garden.

In Japan, “the sakura blooms” is one way of announcing one’s success in an exam.


Yesterday, I paid a visit to the local manga store in my town, and found only vol. 21, the very last volume to be available. The entire series is sold out! Obviously no one is interested in the last volume where the protagonist has succeeded into getting Tokyo University! — A. Kawagoe


(Permission to reprint granted)

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