Some yaoi manga series focus on hot and heavy relationships that move faster than the speed of light. Others take it slow. Classmates: Dou Kyu Sei is content to remain somewhere in the middle, moving quickly when the story calls for it, then inching forward toward the sweet beginnings of a loving and passionate relationship between two young men.
Hikaru Kusakabe is a shy, seemingly unfocused boy who isn’t sure what he wants to do with his life. He dabbles in a few interests and can excel at some of them when he puts his mind to it. On the flip side, Rihito Sajo is the “smartest kid” in school, a loner and academic wiz whom girls find irresistible. They’re classic opposites: Sajo is blond, bright, and extroverted, while dark-haired Kusakabe is introverted and brooding. After they come together under the guise of Sajo helping Kusakabe nail a choir part he’s singing to impress his crush, the two develop feelings for one another. After a surprise kiss, they embark on a sweet, earnest young romance.
Watching Kusakabe and Sajo gravitate toward each other and eventually embark on a relationship is like enjoying a delicious puff pastry: light, airy, and sweet. There’s nothing bad to say about this expressive, emotional story, which lovingly paints a picture of two men who grow to care about each other very much, despite one party’s hangups with an old flame (who happens to be a teacher). The suggestion of teacher/student romance is a little creepy, but some readers will no doubt get a kick out of the touch of forbidden sexual chemistry.
Part of what makes Classmates such a pleasant read is the artwork, which is detailed and sexy but with elements of abstraction that recall manga like Fuyumi Soryo’s Mars or CLAMP’s xxxHolic. The love scenes and romantic encounters are great to look at, with the characters’ typically flat expressions changing as they spend time together.
There’s nothing particularly deep or complex about Classmates, but there doesn’t need to be. It’s a simple story about two different people coming together and finding common ground. More than that, it’s a sweet little LGBTQ+-friendly love letter that readers will want to revisit to enjoy the romance—or share with others looking for a breath of fresh air from the genre.
publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
story and art: Asumiko Nakamura