Classmates, Vol. 1: Dou Kyu Sei

By Asumiko Nakamura. Released in Japan by Akaneshinsha, serialized in the magazine Opera. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Jocelyne Allen. Adapted by Lillian Diaz-Przybyl.

This is the latest in a series of “OMG, I can’t believe we’re finally seeing this title!” LGBTQ releases that we’ve seen in North American this spring. Technically, we’ve seen this one before, as it came out digitally via JManga, then digitally again via the Digital Manga Guild. But this is a print release, newly translated, and looking very nice. It’s not a new title, having come out in 2006, but the story is certainly timeless. There’s a handsome, outgoing boy. There’s a serious, introverted young boy. They fall in love. But as with most really popular titles, it’s not just the story that makes people want to read it. Classmates has a number of individual story beats that I paused and read slower, or went back to read again, because they were handled so well. There’s also some excellent art here as well, as sometimes even a sketchy background shot carries impact. It’s a manga by an author who knows craft.

Hikaru is the easygoing, handsome, long-haired blond, who’s cool, in a band, etc. He’s in an all-boys school, which is practicing for a choral presentation, and notices that a classmate, Rihito, is only pretending to sing. Later he finds Rihito in an empty classroom, trying to learn the song (his vision is poor, so he couldn’t see the music earlier) and Hikaru offers to teach him. Over the course of this, the two fall in love, helped along by Hikaru’s kissing, which is not entirely consensual at first but eventually reciprocated. As the volume continues, you see the passion they have for each other, but is there anything behind it? Moreover, college is coming up, and Rihito, pressured by his parents, is boning up to get into a prestigious university. Is this a long-term thing, or is just another high school romance?

As I said earlier, individual chapters or scenes were what caught my attention here. Student/teacher relationships are a staple of Japanese manga, but you usually see them coming from the POV of the student. Here we get a chapter devoted to Manabu, their music teacher, who tells us why being a gay guy at an all-boys’ school is not all it’s cracked up to be (they’re mostly immature brats), but then runs into Rihito and falls for him immediately (Rihito has a knack for being unconsciously smooth). There are also a couple of fights that were very good, the first after Rihito sees a girl hitting on Hikaru at a concert and drunkenly runs off (Page 114 made me smile hugely) and Rihito’s explosion of emotions (he’s normally pretty repressed) about how he knows nothing about what Hikaru is doing for college or the future. (To be fair, I don’t think Hikaru knows either.) It’s scenes like this that make a series really enjoyable, and I’m very pleased that Seven Seas has also picked up the two-volume sequel to this.

If you like teen romance with passion or classic BL, this is absolutely a series to buy.

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