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Doukyusei
Classmates


Cover ImageAuthor: Nakamura Asumiko
Publisher: Edge Comix (Akaneshinsa)
Series Length: 3 volumes
First printing: February 2008

Five-second plot: A rare "Opposites Attract" manga that doesn't waste all the pages focusing on what makes the couple different, but rather what brings them together.


Summary: While in music class, Kusakabe Hikaru notices classmate Sajyou Rihito pretending to sing during rehearsal, and calls him out on it. This kickstarts their teenage romance, which continues in Sotsugyosei (Graduating Students).


Makoto's Notes: When not visiting Japan, or relying on Minako-chan to be my generous supplier, I buy most of my manga from Amazon Japan. Amazon likes to make recommendations, of course, and at the beginning of 2010 this manga series shot to the top of the list. Each volume had dozens of reviews already, most of them 5 stars. I recognized the artist from her work drawing the serial for "KERA" (a punk fashion magazine), and with that many Totally Glowing Reviews, I had to see: is this series a gem? Or is this the Three Wolf Moon of manga?

As the title suggests, the series is a school romance. While preparing for a school concert in their 2nd year, Sajyou hesitantly accepts singing lessons from punk rocker Kusakabe. Kusakabe is immediately intrigued by the pretty, intense Sajyou, but wonders if he's only learning to sing to impress their music teacher Hara-sensei. Their relationship evolves as the boys grow instinctually closer while knowing nothing about each other.

Doukyusei sample pageThe art feels hip and trendy, while channeling a nostalgic 70's vibe. Minimal screentones, simplistic backgrounds, but wonderful kinetic human figures. When Kusakabe flies at Sajyou for a tackle, which happens quite often, the contact is palpable. The story unfolds primarily from Kusakabe's point of view, and this is emphasized through the art; Sajyou's mother is drawn with her face hidden, until she meets Kusakabe. We're as curious about her features as he is.

Fans of Nakamura-sensei from KERA will find this work far more mainstream. There are no whimsical horse-people or talking bunnies or creepy carnivals. The basics are all familiar: the quiet nerdy boy falling for the loud rocker dude, worries about life after graduation, a love triangle (though mostly hypothetical), a sudden family crisis. Even most of the big plot points of the manga are pedestrian: going to a concert, waiting out a rainstorm, campus tours, shopping. The confident art style and well-crafted inner monologues make everything seem fresh. The characters are believable, the conversations are natural, and poor Hara-sensei makes me roll with laughter. (What is it about simultaneously crying and smoking that ramps up the hilarity?)

So I have to agree with Amazon. This is a well-known artist putting her stamp on a well-tread genre, and the results are worth the read. Doukyusei sample page

From an import perspective, it's a tricky read. There are very few furigana, and a lot of cultural nods and musical terms (I doubt if I caught half of them). The visuals are lovely, but won't mean much without the accompanying dialogue. Also note the book order: Doukyusei (book 1), Sotsugyosei: Winter (book 2), and Sotsugyosei: Spring (book 3).


Warnings and Suggestions: Very little to object to here, other than the usual BL romance content. Lots of kissing, hesitantly more. There are shades of teacher/student romance. This isn't for a young audience, but that's more due to pacing and style. And I think "Iro? Katachi?" may be the funniest line I've read in a love scene, ever.


ISBN 978-4-87182-968-7 (Volume 1)
ISBN 978-4-86349-128-1 (Volume 2)
ISBN 978-4-86349-129-8 (Volume 3)