School is a pretty grueling social system, but we all go through it and most of us survive it. Note that I said "survive it" and not, say "get out of it unscathed" — it's a world where every moment seems catastrophically important and that kind of thinking coupled with the people who make you feel that way irreparably fucks your head up for the rest of your life, I bet. Even if you go to college and find that there are actually real things to care about and that you don't have to be around people you dislike, you still carry the weight horrible shit people did to you (and maybe that you did to others) like a scab you can't stop picking.
So, Limit is about that, pretty much.
Created by Keiko Suenobu, who also did the controversial-topic-courting shojo manga Life in the previous decade, Limit follows a sampling of high school girls of various standings — Konno and Ichinose who gravitate to Sakura, the most popular girl in school, Morishige the manga-drawing social outcast, capable Kamiya who's "going through a 'Champion of Justice' phase" and Usui the, uh, nondescript one.
After getting a quick look at the social order at school — Konno wants to go to whatever university Sakura goes to, Kamiya defends Morishige from the popular girls who sneer at her manga — the class embarks on a trip to their yearly "exchange camp" to stay in the woods for a week when their bus gets into a terrible accident that kills a majority of the class, including — in a beautiful moment of symbolism — the well-liked Sakura.
The rest of the previously mentioned girls survive, but soon we realize that their high school social order is an illusion. Morishige has a scythe and their only supply of food, and thus is finally at the top of the totem pole as the other girls must face the consequences for their classroom wrongdoings while attempting to survive in the wilderness. All the quelled resentment, all the horrible things thoughtlessly uttered and forgotten about are going to resurface and result in some real painful consequences, if the cliffhanger of this first volume is any indication.
Limit is basically Battle Royale without the dystopian high concept, yet still surprisingly extreme for a shojo comic. Then again, it may be only my own preconception of what shojo is — I'm aware it's a pretty broad catch-all for comics intended for teenage girls. But then again, this is a manga by Keiko Suenobu, who likes to deal with the harsh realities of the teenage world, if Life — which also dealt with bullying as well as self-harm and other difficult issues — is any indication.
Suenobu wastes very little time in getting to the meat of Limit. The bus crash happens 40 pages into the volume, and it quickly becomes clear what the story's going to be about once the surviving girls have regrouped. Suenobu's style is solid and fairly broad — she draws lovely, distinct girls in sailor uniforms with nice hairdos, which makes the violence she depicts all the more shocking. Limit is an action comic above all the schoolgirl politics, and she handles that pretty well, too,
I can't speak for the quality of future installments of Limit, but the fact that this series only lasts six volumes is extremely promising — it's a low, finite number that suggests a desire to tell a complete story in a sensible amount of time instead of stretching the narrative out to a tiring 40 volumes. Based on Limit Volume 1, I'm excited to watch these schoolgirls murder one another and maybe learn something in the process.
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions) and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic with Mike Prezzato, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics and check out his other comics at his Tumblr, Sequential Fuckery. His webcomic The Ghost Engine, with artist Eric Zawadzki, updates twice a week.