Manga-ka: Natsuho Shino
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: September 2009
Synopsis: “Welcome to the renowned Shoei Acadamy, a school which prides itself on educating young men from respected families from kindergarten all the way through senior high school. When new teacher Reiji Kurashina transfers to the academy right in the middle of the school year, he proves to be the star all of the senior high boys have been waiting for! But who has a shot at being the special someone to this cool and beautiful teacher…?!”
One manga niche that is sorely lacking in titles is yaoi harem series. There are dozens and dozens of series that feature a guy surrounded by beautiful girls (Love Hina possibly the most famous example) or even a girl surrounded by handsome guys (Ouran Host Club) but hardly any where both the main character and his/her numerous love interests are the same gender. While there may not be a ton of titles with that premise, there is Kurashina Sensei’s Passion.
Kurashina is a new young teacher at the same all-boy high school that he attended as a teenager. Almost as soon as he arrives on campus he gets roped into being the teacher supervisor for the events committee. The events committee is full of interesting characters such the stylish Akiyama, sarcastic vice-chairman Mahiro, and cute freshmen students Kimura and Murosawa. Naturally, in any harem series there is one character who stands out as the main love interest. In this manga it’s the committee chairman, Asano. Asano and Kurashina have their own ‘meet-cute’ when Kurashina’s cat pukes on Asano (why does Kurashina bring a cat to school? As explained in the author’s notes at the back, the answer pretty much boils down to ‘why not?’). Their relationship can only go up from there.
Once the set-up is established, we get various school related stories, such as a fashion show to help students choose a new school uniform and an annual hiking trip. Kurashina usually starts off grumbling about having to supervise the events, but in the end he ends up either saving the day or enjoying himself.
Later on in the book there is a story set outside the school grounds where Kurashina bumps into Asano while shopping. He ropes the young man into carrying his stuff for him, and the two go on a very informal date. The two make a cute pair: Asano is stoic where as Kurashina is a bit of a spaz, and even though Kurashina is older Asano comes off as more mature (in the author’s notes at the back, the manga-ka even comments that while Kurashina starts out cool, he gets more and more childish as the manga goes on).
It’s nice to see a yaoi series that is an ensemble rather than a collection of couples. The other students on the events committee are fun and get a pretty even amount of page time with Asano despite not being a serious love interest for the main character. My favourite is Mahiro, the committee vice-chairman who always has a smile and sarcastic remark ready. His bluntness is a nice contrast to all the cute things in this manga.
Another interesting character is the school nurse, Yusuke Minorikawa. Yu and Kurashina were friends in high school and now work together. Yu has changed a lot since high school – he’s now a woman (or cross-dressing. The manga doesn’t make it clear which). Yu teases Kurashina every chance she gets, especially when it comes to Kurashina’s growing feelings for Asano.
Between the cute kids, cute cat, and pretty boys, Kurshina Sensei’s Passion is a severely adorable manga. The fact that the love story is extremely chaste adds to the fluffy atmosphere. It seems a little disingenuous to call the manga Kurashina Sensei’s Passion, since the leads only go so far as to kiss once. Not exactly very passionate, but maybe the manga will live up to its name in future volumes. The manga-ka even acknowledges that it isn’t really much of a boy’s love title, but I personally didn’t mind as it was still enjoyable. I really don’t think this manga deserves a 16+ rating, but it seems that’s become the default rating for yaoi titles.
The manga has endearing art to go with the fluffy story. The manga-ka Natsuho Shino has an art style that is both cute and detailed. Her character designs are fantastic. Her older boys are cool and handsome while the younger ones are adorable (the cutest being Akiyama’s little brother. The last time I saw such a cute kid in a manga it was in CLAMP School Detectives). She’s also good at female character designs. Yusuke may be the only (sort of) female character, but her design still crackles with life and is as stunning as the boys’.
Digital Manga did a fantastic job with the sound effects. Usually I hate it when manga companies replace the Japanese SFX with English. Generally this results in huge, obnoxious SFX that distracts from the artwork (yes, I’m talking about you, VIZ). But Digital Manga gets it right here. Most of the sound effects are redone in English, but they’re not obtrusive or an eyesore. I didn’t even notice that they had been redone until I looked at the manga for a second time. When the sound effect is too big to re-do without changing the artwork, it’s left as is with an English translation alongside it in small letters. It’s really the best of both worlds and I wouldn’t mind seeing it done in other manga titles.
Kurashina Sensei’s Passion is a perfect read if you’re looking for some boy’s love rather than hardcore yaoi, or if you just want to read something really, really cute.