Yaoi review: Hey, Sensei?

Hey, Sensei?
By Yaya Sakuragi
Published by Juné Manga
ISBN 13: 978-1-56970-047-1

Review by April Kimm

Yaya Sakuragi is the mangaka of “Calorie,” “Soba ni Oitene,” “Renai Kyoutei Nukegake Nashi!,” “Koi Cha no Osahou” (Tea for Two) published by Blu Manga, “Mizu no Kioku,” “Plus 20 cm no Kyori,” “Yume Musubi, Koi Musubi,” “Hotel Traffic,” and “Oujisama no Ren’ai Jijyou.” “Hey, Sensei?” is a manga with four chapters and an epilogue of the main story, an unrelated one-shot “Unbreakable Bones,” and an afterword by the author. It’s soft yaoi, and sensei doesn’t lose his virginity until the last chapter, which may be why there’s a smut scene in the one-shot.

In the first chapter, we are introduced to high school junior Takashi Homura and his math sensei Tomohiko Isa, who has been a teacher for five years. They met years ago when sensei went out with Homura’s older sister Kaori, who was sensei’s first and last girlfriend. Kaori broke up with him, because he’d always use her little brother as an excuse not to be intimate with her. It turns out that that’s how he figured out he was gay, because women did not turn him on. Although he had this revelation in college, sensei still hasn’t had any relations with men, either. Homura gets his attention by writing, “I love you, sensei” on his test, which he turned in blank, so he’d have extra lessons with him during winter break. Although Homura is bisexual and popular with the girls, he propositions sensei by asking him to play with him, because he thought that sensei was straight and since there’s a ten year difference in their ages, he also thought sensei had a lot of experience with girls. While sensei’s on moral guidance patrol with another teacher, he happens to see a couple of girls hitting on Homura, which makes him think that Homura was just messing with him. The next day during their lesson, Homura puts the moves on sensei to show his skill level to convince him to give him a try, which is how he finds out that sensei is gay but has no experience whatsoever. Sensei is an uke who acts cold and calm but is actually insecure in his thoughts, and Homura is a seme who is cool and experienced but remembers his childhood happiness when sensei chose to spend Christmas with him when he was going out with his sister.

In the second chapter, Homura is upset that sensei refused to spend time with him during winter break, so sensei invites him over to his house. Unfortunately for Homura, not only does sensei live with his parents but they were home when he invited him over. Sensei is so innocent that he didn’t realize that Homura was hoping to spend alone time together. The next day, when sensei calls on him during class, Homura refuses to answer the math question. After class, Homura confronts him, cause sensei refuses to come over to his place, as Kaori lives there. Although he promised to make sure Kaori wasn’t at home, sensei still refuses to go. When Homura asks if he’s just humoring him with all these excuses not to spend any time with him, sensei agrees to come over to his house to prove that he’s not still carrying a torch for his older sister. When he comes over, sensei gets scared of physical intimacy, so Homura apologizes and stops with kisses. Afterwards, when sensei’s taking them for a drive, he decides to look for an apartment to further their relationship. Sensei tries to overcome his guilt over going out with his ex-girlfriend’s little brother and his fear of physical intimacy, and Homura tries to overcome his insecurity over sensei’s past attraction to his older sister and their ten year age difference.

In the third chapter, when they’re researching apartments, Homura overhears another teacher Kurehara offering to help sensei find an apartment. Since Homura feels that he’s not another adult in a position where sensei can rely on him, he decides to make himself useful physically by helping him move into his new apartment. Since his back is sore from all the heavy lifting and he figures sensei is still scared of intimacy, Homura promises not to devour him if they can share a futon. This makes sensei feel secure enough to touch Homura. Sensei reveals that he wonders what Homura finds attractive about him when other kids his age would find him an old man and is embarrassed that he’s even questioning things like that at his age, and Homura reveals that when he first saw sensei again after so long, he felt that sensei became an adult but when he saw him dozing without his glasses on, he fell in love.

In the last chapter, although Homura recovers completely from the strain of moving boxes all day, sensei’s taken to his bed with muscle ache and makes Homura go shopping for him. Since finals are coming up, sensei refuses to let Homura visit him until his tests are over. Although Homura requests that sensei not go drinking with anyone else, particularly Kurehara, during their time apart, sensei ends up going drinking with his colleague, who wanted advice from someone his own age, cause he wants to marry one of his students. While Kurehara talks about his feelings for his student and his anxiety that her youthful feelings are fleeting, sensei also thinks of his own parallel relationship with Homura. Sensei happens to see a girl trying to give chocolate to Homura on Valentine’s Day, but Homura runs after him to give him chocolate instead. After the tests, Homura comes over to sensei’s place to get his reward for studying so hard and finally takes sensei’s virginity.

The one-shot “Unbreakable Bones” is about two childhood friends, one who works at a ramen restaurant and another who is a cop. They are reunited after fourteen years when Manabu gets assigned Yuji’s neighborhood as a rookie cop. Manabu orders the same ramen everyday, and Yuji delivers it to him each time. Yuji went through hard times with his mother abandoning him, his father beating him, and him going to juvey for assault after beating some punks wielding knives. After Yuji helps Manabu search for a lost dog, Manabu revels that he became a cop to protect Yuji, who always protected him when they were little. Yuji gets upset, cause Manabu doesn’t know his past and thinks he hasn’t changed. After hearing his story, Manabu explains that a broken bone mends into one stronger than before, and Yuji is the same. Then Manabu comes out and confesses to Yuji, who is surprised but accepts.

In the epilogue, Homura accidentally walks by when Kurehara asks his student to marry him, and she dumps him. This prompts Homura to ask sensei what he’d do if he asked him to marry him.

Yaya Sakuragi is an excellent mangaka, and as such, she is one of my favorite yaoi authors. She does mostly soft yaoi and some shounen ai. Her cool, experienced, and popular semes go after her innocent ukes. Her characters overcome misunderstandings and insecurities about their relationships. Although she is not as explicit in her smut scenes as some other authors, she adds an emotional element that is too often missing in other yaoi. “Hey, Sensei?” is one of her best works. Having read all her manga, I’d say that only “Calorie” is better. I highly recommend Yaya Sakuragi’s “Hey, Sensei?” without reserve. It will be one of your best yaoi manga buys. I liked this manga so much that I bought the semi-monthly Be Boy Gold at Asahiya, one of the local Japanese book stores here in New York, when it ran the chapters back in 2006.

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