Asumiko Nakamura – JManga – 2012 – 3 volumes
This was so good! I hope I’m right with the volume count. Classmate is only one volume, but it looks like there are two followup volumes called Sotsugyousei, and a spin-off volume about the teacher in this one. I want to read them all, along with anything else written by this author.
It reminded me a lot of the 2-volume Seven Days series, which was a very delicate story about two classmates falling in love almost on a bet. That makes it sound like it could be a comedy with boisterous characters, but that it’s completely serious is one of the best things about it. It explores the feelings of both boys, and takes its time to show them falling in love, rather than being a drama about one in love with the other, and will they/won’t they. Doukyusei is the same thing. Hikaru and Rihito fall in love very naturally in the first chapter, and the rest of the chapters are short stories about getting to know one another, pushing boundaries, finding limits, et cetera. There’s not a whole lot of action, but when character-centric stories like this get it right, it can be one of my absolute favorite things. And Doukyusei is very good.
The whole thing is rather innocent. It starts when Hikaru notices Rihito isn’t actually singing during music class, then catches him practicing diligently afterward. His effort makes Hikaru offer to give him music lessons, so the two meet after school until the choir concert. During the concert, Hikaru begins to get jealous and suspect that Rihito is only putting forth the effort for the music teacher. That’s when he realizes he’s fallen in love with Rihito. Rihito, meek and quiet, goes along with it, and the two begin dating.
Most of the stories are about quiet moments between them. Chances stolen at school, the two agonizing about their futures, basically just being two high school students in love. There’s a short chapter about the music teacher, who is also in love with Rihito (not being a fan of teacher/student relationships, I hate that this is such a staple of BL it even shows up in a story like this), but the teacher only serves to give Hikaru something to get worked up about. There are chapters about both of them having moments of jealousy, but the relationship is never in any danger.
It’s mostly sweet and thoughtful, but it is written so well that I’m desperate for more. The only implication that there might be more is that the physical side of their relationship isn’t really explored, though Hikaru hints in one story that he would like it to. But even if it never gets there, I really could go for three more volumes of this. If you like your BL super-romantic and character-centric, you’ll go nuts for this. It’s quite good, and I’m sad that we won’t see a print edition.