Title: Seiho Boys’ High School
Author: Kaneyoshi Izumi
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volumes 1 and 2 (ongoing), $9.99 each
Vintage: 2007 by Shogakukan in Japan, August and October 2010 (respectively) by Viz Media
Genre: Comedy, school life, romance
Seiho Boys’ High School is an all boys school located on an island, only accessible by a ferry that comes from the mainland twice a day, and a train station that is a 50 minute drive away. At this private school, 312 boys live in on campus dorms, rarely exposed to females during their girl crazy teenage years. The isolation has its consequences – when they do manage to track down a female, their lack of contact with the opposite sex drives their hormones crazy and results in awkward pick up lines and a general lack of ability to make polite, coherent conversation. Of course, it’s also resulted in a tight knit group of boys willing to help each other out with any problems, and Seiho Boys’ High School spotlights a strong group of friends that has formed at this isolated academy.
We’re first introduced to the boys when the homosexual Hanai asks his friends to help him handle the arrival of his middle school girlfriend. Hanai met the lead character, Maki, when he lost patience with the boys bullying Hanai and kicked their faces in. They’ve been friends ever since. The outrageously handsome Kamiki is also one of their friends. Thrilled about getting to see a female, the boys agree to help out. Poor Hanai doesn’t want Miki to feel like he faked dating her, so he asks his friends to help him keep up a manly persona. But the remarkably intuitive Miki had it all figured out, and is only putting on a show to force Hanai to come clean with her. Maki’s life even at an all boys school sure is exciting, and he gets wrapped up into another plot when his roommate, the tactless Nogami, returns from the hospital. Nogami manages to convince Maki to help him make over the school nurse, the big breasted but plain looking Fukuhara, who has a crush on Kamiki. Unfortunately, while dolling her up and coaching her on her mannerisms, Nogami obliviously falls for her instead. Following that humorous disaster, we learn that Kamiki’s sophisticated style isn’t compiled by himself, but rather by his more fashion-oriented step-sister, Mana. Mana is about to get married, so she has come to visit her brother to give him her special brand of grooming one last time. However, what seems like a pleasant brother-sister relationship is a front for their true feelings for each other. A bonus story called “Land of the Rabbits” rounds off the first volume. Tetsu harbors forbidden feelings for his sister, Shizuka. To escape his feelings, he starts hanging out with an older girl named Nana, who has been having an affair with a married man. A short story about people who can’t hide from their true feelings.
The second volume really kicks things into gear, with the bulk of the story centering on Maki’s past. Specifically, a girl from Maki’s past. Prospective freshmen are visiting the Seiho High School campus, and one candidate has brought his rather pushy sister along. The girl, Sakura, immediately latches onto Maki, and he happily takes her on a tour of the school. But when Sakura starts complaining, acting spoiled, and demanding favors from Maki, he begins to compare her to a girl from his past – the hotheaded, sharp tongued Erika. When asked about the mysterious girl he’s still hung up on, Maki remains elusive, but as readers, we get to see their relationship play out throughout the volume. Erika’s abrasive personality makes her transfer to her new school difficult, but Maki, who is assigned by his teacher to make her feel welcome, is drawn to her tactless nature and notices quickly that beneath her standoffish exterior, is a gentle and awkward girl who just doesn’t know how to deal with other people. At first, Erika pushes him away, knowing the teacher put him up to it, but eventually, with Maki’s persistence, she begins to warm up to him, in her way. It’s an incredibly sweet, and also quite sad, little romance that has me officially hooked on this series. The final chapter puts the focus back on Kamiki, who volunteers to help a girl named Fuyuka present a happy life for her best friend who is coming to visit her. Kamiki agrees to pretend to be her boyfriend, and even gives her a gentle push when he realizes she’s in love with her best friend’s boyfriend. The Seiho boys are quite the dashing heroes.
This series could have easily become a boys’ love story. I mean, the set up is there. An all boys school sequestered on an island. Beautiful boys, and a lack of females. But the series stays away from that. It has elements, sure. One of the guys is also actually gay, and there’s a lot of dialog where some of the boys comment on the good looks of their friends, and are even slightly swept away by impressive displays of masculinity. Seiho is undeniably shoujo, however, saved from yaoi clichés by girl crazy, hormone driven, awkward teenage boys. Hanai, however, is a nice balance to the story. While most of the boys drool over every girl in sight, Hanai reminds them with a little reverse sexual harassment what being viewed as a piece of meat is like. At its heart, the series is about the friendships between the boys. One of my favorite parts is when the gang, super excited about setting up a mixer with Sakura’s friends, immediately cancel it when Maki brushes her off for her rude behavior, sticking by their friend and his decision. They’re always there for each other; their camaraderie is strong. They’re all in the same boat, after all. The most amusing bits occur when they do happen upon a member of the opposite sex, and end up blurting out completely tactless lines because they don’t have any regular communication with girls. Basically, they’re getting rusty on their little island, and they quite frequently bemoan this unfortunate aspect of their school life. All in all, I’d say the first volume is a little slow, and makes the series seem like it will be light and silly, but the second volume sets an entirely different, more serious (but still maintaining a light, shoujo style) mood. The art is clean, and the boys are appropriately handsome and cute. Best of all, so are the girls. They aren’t just tacked on there, but have their own strong presence within the story. Some of them will even show up later in major roles. If you’re looking for a new shoujo title to pick up, this looks like it will be an entertaining read. It brought me to tears, at any rate, which is generally a good sign.
Many thanks to Kate (The Manga Critic) for sending me the fourth volume of this series, prompting me to snag volumes 1 and 2 at a Borders closeout sale.