Kazuma Kodaka – June – 2011 – 10 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 3-4

I kinda liked this, kinda didn’t last time. This time… is about the same. There’s a couple chapters in the front that feature a flashback to when Masami and Masayoshi were still in school (meeting Toru is a big part of this), and much like the flashback at the beginning of Kizuna, I loved this to pieces. Unlike the flashback at the beginning of Kizuna, it wasn’t because of the sex. This flashback wasn’t even really a romance. It was just more coming-of-age storytelling, which was what I liked about the first volume. It feels weird in a BL series like this, especially since this is still a comedy, but it’s unusual enough that I’m really getting into it.

Unfortunately, the comedy is still not mixing well with the other flavors. The comedy dates it, and the slapstick is a little annoying throughout… well, almost any other part of the story. I don’t think it’s necessarily out of place, especially with any parts that focus on Atsushi, but… they’re old jokes, and not funny. It makes reading parts of this a little difficult.

For instance, right after the flashback there’s a contest chapter that ends with all five main characters going to Norway to meet Masami and Masayoshi’s father. Norway’s an interesting setting, and I was looking forward to this, but five characters is a little much for anything other than comedy. The story wound up mainly being about Masami coming out to his father, which did not go well. But with all the meddling, it was hard to appreciate the drama that was going on. There was also a subplot about another man that tries to go after Toru, which was also an out-of-character stab at humor. There’s also lots of wacky hijinx about who gets to sleep in who’s bed, Inagaki drinking with the elder Shibata, et cetera. I sat on this volume for over a week, dreading having to finish this part. It’s just not what I wanted to read.

Immediately after this finishes, the story introduces Toru’s younger brother and ditches Inagaki, for the most part. Kyohei doesn’t know about his brother and Masami, and Toru is bad at hiding things. This chapter is genuinely cute, and watching Masami quietly get angry as Toru puts his foot in his mouth again and again is pretty funny. Toru does so badly that even Masaoyshi tries to help him out towards the end, which must mean that Masami was fairly angry.

Immediately after this, Kyohei leaves and the story turns to the theme of Masami and Toru’s first night together. This doesn’t go well at all (due to, surprise surprise, comedic interruption by Masayoshi and Atsushi), but the story does a surprisingly good job with character development for all four main characters. With scenes like the one between Masami and Toru, though, it begins to read more like a serious romance with a bad comedy monkey on its back.

One thing that did bother me was the development in the relationship between Masayoshi and Atsushi. I liked this relationship quite a bit, simply because the story made it more than obvious that Masayoshi would never return Atsushi’s feelings. The two get closer here, though, and Atsushi begins to get uncomfortably accurate with reading Masayoshi’s feelings. Masayoshi is still making it very clear that he isn’t interested in Atsushi… but the romance has definitely been turned up a little by the end of the volume. Atsushi’s feelings stopped being a joke, and with less Inagaki, there’s not a whole lot to interrupt the two of them. Bah. I like Masayoshi best as a student adviser, and his role in the story is a big part of why this is working as a coming of age/slice of life story.

The story also touches briefly on the fact that Masayoshi is totally in love with Masami. This is only discussed on a few pages, and dropped just as quickly. As squick-y as this is, again, it’s completely and obviously one-sided, and I like that about it. It’s handled more like Masayoshi is moving on with his life than it does a serious romance, which is why it works.

One other thing that bothers me… whenever Kodaka draws two characters full-body… she… uh, doesn’t draw them tall enough. This comes up in Kizuna, too. As manly-looking as her characters are, they all look like little boys when drawn full-figured. It’s really, really bizarre.

I’m going to keep reading this. I’m more than a little on the fence at this point, especially since I realize with six volumes to go, it’s likely that Masayoshi’s feelings will change. Plus, the humor is really not working for me. But I do like that the emphasis is shifted off romance, and it’s a quirky, if somewhat old-fashioned, story. I’ll see how I feel after one more volume.

Kazuma Kodaka – June – 2011 – 10 volumes
this is an omnibus containing volumes 1-2

Normally I avoid any BL book with the word “teacher” in the title like the plague. Teacher/student relationships are really, really not my thing. But I agonized over this one. Usually, when June sees fit to publish an omnibus, it’s worth my time, and I’ve liked what I’ve read of Kazuma Kodaka’s work so far. So I took the plunge. It paid off.

I found the author’s notes in the back of the volume helped to give the series context. Apparently this was among the first wave of titles in BexBoy Magazine, one of the foundations of BL manga today. My attempts to dig around for more history are futile, since there’s a big blank in the 80s where it looks like doujinshi and June magazine were what BL fans had to enjoy, but it’s possible that this was at the beginning of a more “mainstream” BL genre, so to speak. That’s interesting to me, as is the fact that Kazuma Kodaka drew shounen manga before this, and then only BL afterwards.

Basically, this book is old, and looks it. It dates back to 1990, and the art reflects this. I like Kodaka’s very 90s hairstyles and character designs. There are a lot of mullets around, and the guys, including the students, are a little manlier than the bishounen types you usually find in BL manga. And, as expected, the fashions are hilariously dated. But other than that, Kodaka is a good artist, and the art is functional. I like series with older art like this, since it can get tiring looking at the same art styles all the time.

But my preamble about the history is mostly to explain the content of the book. I enjoy reading manga largely because I am a genre fanatic. I love seeing how well certain series do or do not fit into their genre categories. But this. I have no frame of reference for this series. It is unlike any BL manga, or romance manga in general, that I have read. It does fit some of the early 90s BL I’ve read in that series from that time tend to be more comedy-focused than romance-focused, but other than that… it took me a long time to get a handle on what was going on, simply because it doesn’t really fit into the usual categories.

If pressed, I would say that this series is mostly a coming-of-age story. There are couples in the story, but they aren’t romantic. There’s lots of comedy, but so far, it seems like the only character-focused parts of the story are about certain characters overcoming their personal problems with other characters. But even with that theme, it’s pretty positive overall.

The story starts off with Atsushi entering high school. So far, so good. The high school has a bad reputation, though, and the only reason he entered it was because he heard that his neighbor, a boy named Ma-chan, had recently been made the nurse there. Ma-chan was his childhood crush, but moved away before he could admit his feelings. So now Atsushi is bound and determined to confess his feelings. But when he gets there, he’s found that Ma-chan, a teacher named Shibata, is a care-free playboy type who’s rude, obnoxious, and utterly unlike the gentle Ma-chan of Atsushi’s memory. On top of that, Atsushi runs into another childhood friend who had a crush on him, a boy named Inagaki. Inagaki isn’t easily dissuaded, and he decides to stick by Atsushi’s side like glue. After Atsushi decides to be friends with Inagaki and love Ma-chan for who he is, he gets another bomb dropped: Ma-chan is just how he remembers him, the teacher Shibata is simply Ma-chan’s brother, Masayoshi. And the real Ma-chan, aka Masami, is dating another teacher at Atsushi’s school named Hagiwara.

So. Atsushi loves Masami. Masami loves Hagiwara, who loves him back. Inagaki loves Atsushi. Atsushi winds up falling in love with Masayoshi, eventually. Take that premise, strip the romance from it and fill it with comedy, then drop the characters into any number of situations. Basketball games. Hawaiian vacations. Races. Et cetera. There’s always a little something sweet to balance out the comedy, like the long-suffering Masami’s curse that Hagiwara will never, ever make a move on him. That rude guy Masayoshi is actually a great teacher despite his delinquent-like ways. That Atsushi can take his broken heart and deal with it how he will.

But it is mostly a comedy, complete with 90s-style slapstick and bad jokes. It’s totally not my type of series, and yet I find myself strangely drawn to the characters, even with no romance. I don’t know what to make of this first omnibus volume, but with the utterly weird character relationships, types, and strange plots (that are slightly less conventional than what I’ve said here, but only just), I couldn’t put it down. I was relieved it wasn’t a teacher/student romance, though, and I love that Masayoshi doesn’t return Atsushi’s feelings. Don’t change on me!

Anyway. I was confused and intrigued. I need a second volume to see where this craziness is going. But this only cements the June omnibus reputation in my mind. It’s true that it’s only the best series in these omnibuses.