Although I have a penchant for serious grown-up affairs that doesn’t mean I don’t get thirsty for lots of fluffy romance. And where do you find more honest and cute depiction of budding fluffy rabu than in high school romances? I picked my top 3 BL titles with this focus for the Manga Moveable Feast of this month. They make also great gateway pieces for any newbies.
Bright and early one Monday morning, Shino Yuzuru asks Seryou Touji out on a lark when they run into each other at the school gate. Seryou, who’s immensely popular, has the odd habit of going out with anyone who asks him out first at the beginning of the week, then promptly dumping them at the end of it. “Anyone” apparently includes male upperclassmen like Shino, and as a boyfriend, Seryou is perfect–unfailingly thoughtful and kind. Shino, obviously, has no intention of being in a serious relationship with Seryou. It’s not like it’s actually love or anything like that. …Right?
Seven Days is one -if not the most- well known shounen-ai. Takarai-sensei’s illustrations appear to be one reason for its fame. Just looking at the covers someone can expect very good things from the manga. Just look how they tell a story on their own: it’s morning or noon in the first cover and we can see three students walking in the school corridors, two of them closer to each other but they don’t have any sort of contact; on the second one it’s evening, outdoors, and the two guys face each other, smiling with their hands in a friendly, relaxed position. There’s apparently a budding relationship that gets a happy ending after the lapse of time.
But although I find the work of Takarai lovely, I feel relieved that Tachibana was on the script – Hana no Mizo Shiru didn’t have a good start. Seven Days catch your attention from page 1 with the concepts of dating and failed expectations due to looks not matching personality. It adresses the issue of getting into a relationship without knowing the other person, all the while carrying high non-realistic standards for your partner. We also learn not to put labels to people and we are shown the benefits of a casual affair: the short time allows two individuals to live a short dream without the decay due to clashing of wishes or disinterest, and one might use it as a ‘testing period’.
The general atmosphere is melancholic as the passing time creates a sense of threat and the anxiety of having feelings unanswered. In spite of that there are occasional subtle jokes of the S & M type and Yuzuru’s character that is demanding keeps up the spirits and creates friction which doesn’t leave space for boredom. Seryou is much more quiet but he is shown to share a special chemistry with Yuzuru. We witness two pretty boys fumbling around to hold onto something while they are falling- in love. And it’s really sweet.
Mangaka: Puku Okuyama
Volumes: 1 (published by dmg)
A new student enrolls in Kosuke’s sophomore class in high school. As a perfect foil to Kosuke’s short stature, Raku is tall, manly and popular with girls. Although Kosuke initially feels jealous, he soon learns of Raku’s secret and is asked to keep it a secret. Raku finds himself taking an interest in Kosuke and they begin to grow closer. This is a high school romantic comedy about an odd couple!
I feel so lucky I picked up this title. You open the book and you know it’s gonna be a fun ride; I mean I was laughing almost all the time. I’m a hard to please person when it comes to comedy, but Okuyama-sensei wrote everything so well. The comedy comes from reversing stereotypes, like the joke with the girl running with the bread, stumbling and revealing her pants (just take a look at the free preview!), from name puns, from real life friend talk about video games, movies and spoilers, and by mirroring retorts. The bizarre colorful choices of T-shirts and the use of boke, dotted and flower patterns contribute to the merry tone. And when I wasn’t bursting with glee, I was squealing like a love-drunk.
The Rule of Standing on Tiptoe is not just utterly enjoyable but awesome on many levels. The protagonists have some complexes about their looks and it is made clear that they aren’t overreacting; when they somehow hurt each other they always apologize and in the end they’ve learned to be cool with who they are. We also know about a (heterosexual) break-up which is handled very respectfully and the ex-couple remain friends. Besides, the story includes a yuri couple, a boy who wants to become beautician but surprisingly isn’t a fabulous queer stereotype, and a decent, well-meaning rival for Kosuke’s love. The only negative was the absence of clear-cut chapters which made some transitions weird.
Mangaka: Asumiko Nakamura
Volumes: 3 (Classmates could be read on Jmanga and Graduates is going to be licenced under DMG)
Hotness: 1 – 2
A boy met a boy. They were in the flush of youth. They were in love that felt like a dream, like a sparkling soda pop. -Doukyousei Shards of memory with a brilliant radiance. As the seasons turn, two boys’ hearts are changing. Winter brings them close to each other, little by little. – Sotsugyousei
If Nakamura A. was a color that’d be black because the majority of her works have either a mysterious (gothic) aura or dark and harsh themes. Having previously read Double Mints, this series was a big surprise and way more my cup of tea. Classmates and Graduates, as well as their sequels/spin offs, Sora to Hara and O.B., are a real delight which can be testified from the light-colored covers and the poetic subtitles. Nakamura herself admits she wanted to write a slow, serious love and although the theme is overused (especially the all-boys school setting) the goal was to “really go back to the basics” and present us with “the bittersweet youth that tickles you from the inside and leaves your fingers shaking.” And so she did, and she is totally loved for it.
Her distinct art style might seem repulsive at first, but one quickly gets used to it. It’s liquid-like thus erotic, it’s crisp and thin thus buoyant. Those maddening eyes suck you in and her character designs are very expressive. Exactly because they don’t obey certain rules, they can communicate excellently a big palette of emotions, from unfathomable sadness to comedic astonishment. Together with the subtitles, the reference to the 100 poems and the passing seasons, they highlight the series’ lyricism.
Everything starts with a music rehearsal. Sajou Rihito, the stoic black-haired ‘nerd’, has problems learning the choir song and is discovered accidentally trying to practice by Kusakabe Hikaru, the blond guitarist and ‘deliquent’. The latter offers a helping hand and somehow ends up having a crush on his classmate. By the time the first chapter has ended, Kusakabe has confessed and stolen from Sajou a couple of kisses. Next thing we know is that they walk together after school every day only for Kusakabe to officially ask Sajou out- a bit belatedly. Soon enough the music teacher, ‘Harasen’, gets in the mix to spice things up, without representing any threat though.
Classmates and Graduates establish the couple getting together from the beginning with the quirks of real life and continue to show us the progress of the relationship – with the ups & downs, the misunderstandings, the decisions, how feelings develop while dating and not just before, the coming out (which is adorable), the future, and how they bring out the best in each other. Tenderness and naughtiness are important, too, and manifest in detailed hand-holding, back rubbing and a hickey; only towards the end, after a year or so has passed do they go to the next physical step.
The series has some inside jokes, like Kusakabe mentioning he read his sister’s yaoi or thinking that he’s going to die from moe because Sajou is that cute, that are funny despite not being anything new. Kusakabe himself is the source of lots of comedic situations, since he reacts over the top yet honestly, jumps to conclusions -like the teen he is, he can get very emotional and fidgety and very relaxed at times (he gets in the teacher room and asks Harasen how two men have sex). Sajou may take initiatives here and there but he is too serious or sweet to make someone laugh. Harasen on the other hand has a moment or two where he’s fantasy roams or gets frustrated and freaks out hilariously.
There’s some slight sexism with comments on certain behaviors being ‘girly’ and other being ‘manly; and we do get some non-con kisses at the start, yet the different POVs which are utilized smooth things out, enrich the story and flesh out the characters. The manga is all in all a suberb romantic story that keeps its feet dipped into reality while giving our heart wings. I’ve written 5 paragraphs already. Aren’t you convinced?