Yes, I finally get around to reviewing a yaoi title for this blog. In doing so, I can't help but think of two audiences to keep in mind when I evaluate these works about men with men, but for women audiences and by women creators -- the first being fans of yaoi, the second those who are not. Hey, Sensei? by Yaya Sakuragi, to be released later in April by June, will certainly please the first group, but I can't help think the second might need to accept certain "only-in-yaoi-is-this-okay" characterization points to fully enjoy and accept the premise of this work.
I'm a big fan of Yaya Sakuragi -- she has a way of making of the most impractical relationships seem real on an emotional level and she continues that trend in Hey, Sensei? High school student Homura has fallen in love with his straight-laced math teacher, Isa, who has a good ten years on Homura. Homura, being the very model of sensibility, as all hormonally-driven teenage boys tend to be *cough*, decides the best course of action is too sexually harass Isa. Isa is the very definition of "late bloomer." He's very susceptible to Homura because while he has finally figured out he's gay -- by first dating Homura's sister (dear lord!) and absolutely failing to take that relationship to the next level -- he has never really done anything about his self-discovery. Homura really cares Isa but hasn't a clue how to capture the older man's attention, and so, attempts to forge emotional bonds by forcing physical ones.
Isa is first dumbfounded by Homura's attention, but besides one cringe-worthy moment of non-consensual harassment, Isa quickly becomes emotionally drawn to the hot-headed, but generally well-meaning, student. Isa uses his adult status as a shield, first out of fear that he's being played with and later so he can keep Homura in check long enough so the two can develop a real sustainable connection before they take their relationship to the next level. Isa plays at being cool but this is his first experience in love and lust, while Homura may have sexual experience, he's overwhelmed by his new emotional attachment to this cool-looking and cool-acting man.
Now, teacher-student relations are all kinds of wrong but Sakuragi carefully delves into all the kinds of psychological impediments that rise up when we fall in love with someone whose life circumstances are so completely different than our own. Both Isa and Homura struggle to communicate with each other and overcome the many insecurities and fears that could disable their relationship before it even gets off the ground. In spite of that, the work remains fairly light in tone. The consequences of dating your student are at worst a broken heart, and at best a little embarrassment over the age difference. There is no melodrama about abuse of power, perhaps because Homura takes the lead sexually, while Isa attempts to keep up emotionally with his openly affectionate young lover.
Sakuragi's art is always distinctive -- you can never mistake her lanky and masculine figures as by anyone but her. Her few explicit sex scenes are integrated into the narrative and always serve an emotional purpose. They never feel tacked on or excessive, but then nothing about her work ever does.
This volume includes a sweet one-shot, "Unbreakable Bones," about a rookie policeman and his childhood friend, a lonely, ramen delivery man. The story doesn't depart too far from the tone of the main volume, and, therefore, is a nice addition to the work. This means the volume maintains the readers' good will to the very end, instead of squandering it.
Review Copy provided by DMP.