Creator: Shou Harusono (@harusono_org)
Translator: Leighann Harvey
Publisher: Yen Press (@YenPress)
WHAT IS IT?
A semi-degenerate upperclassman and his manga-loving classmate learn to balance their studies, hobbies, and budding romance in this low-key slice-of-life boys’ love manga series.
Think Classmates meets Junjo Romantica.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
When quiet high schooler Miyano stumbles upon a classmate getting bullied, upperclassman Sasaki comes to the rescue. This seemingly random encounter changes the trajectory of their lives and brings their two distant worlds together. Sasaki can’t seem to get Miyano out of his mind and decides to find a way to bond with him. Much to Miyano’s great dismay, the persistent Sasaki discovers his darkest secret. He’s a BL fanboy - a fudanshi - and he's desperate to keep his addiction a secret. Just when he thinks it couldn’t get any worse, Sasaki asks to borrow a BL manga!
As the two begin to talk about manga, hobbies, and their personal lives, Sasaki falls more in love with the clueless Miyano. Even though Miyano is a self-proclaimed BL expert, he just can’t seem to realize that he’s in one himself! The typical, cliche set-up of a bad boy falling in love with an adorable dork completely escapes him. Will Sasaki ever get the point across to the clueless Miyano? Only time will tell in this charming BL series.
Harusono has captured the authenticity of young, adolescent relationships in the midst of being an otaku and dealing with high school requirements. The humor is balanced well with scenes of self-reflection and honest, realistic thoughts as the students try to maneuver through the school year.
The illustrations have a soft and airy sense to them, the tones of black and grey are on the lighter side and the textures/backgrounds have a cutesy, lighthearted aesthetic. It captures a classic shoujo romance style done in a modern fashion. The character designs and outfits are varied and change with the seasons, showcasing a sense of realism to the students that fits their personalities and interests.
Harvey's translations perfectly capture tone and inflection that leaps off of the page. With speech, inner thoughts, sound effects, and annotations, the amount of work put in really shows.
DK's lettering is crisp and well-formatted. Text inside of speech bubbles fit perfectly and are varied in size and style to reflect the emotion in the speech, while the text outside of the bubbles is shadowed appropriately to help it stay legible against the background. Overall it is an easy read both in digital and print format.
The sound effect translations are sized appropriately as to not be distracting when set against the original lettering. It allows the emphasis that Harusono wanted to shine through while still ensuring that western audiences can understand what's happening.
The manga is set up in a manner that is simplistic and easy to follow. The panels are all quite large, each page usually contains no more than four or five panels, which brings the illustrations to the forefront and makes even the smallest of lettering easily legible.
Sasaki’s sudden realization that he’s falling for another guy is done in a tasteful and honest manner. He’s confused about why his heart is racing and why he can’t stop thinking about Miyano, he questions how he feels and eventually relents to his crush with a sense of peace. It’s an incredibly sweet journey to watch as he comes to terms with this shift in his life. (At this time we have only begun to glimpse Miyano's developing feelings, making this one sweet slow-burn of a series).
Unlike many romance mangas (especially BL-centered ones), Sasaki does not force the relationship. While he does come across as a bit clingy, it’s never abrasive or rough, and he's mindful about his level of contact and what he says to be respectful Miyano. He struggles with waiting but finds himself simply enjoying Miyano’s company, allowing for an authentic development of admiration and friendship that builds up slowly over the progression of the story.
Many pages contain a small footnote from Harusono by the page number, usually a cheeky reference to what’s happening in the page. It’s a nice, humorous annotation that adds to the slice-of-life aesthetic.
The interior of both covers contain mini-comics and the first few pages are colored inserts that usually have an illustration or another mini-comic that expands on the universe outside of the main narrative. They are small details that add a lot to the quality of the volumes and expand on the world-building.
The cast of characters are all quirky and enjoyable. Unlike many romance-focused stories, Harusono ensured that the main duo is surrounded by friends and classmates that are realistic and just as vibrant and memorable as Sasaki and Miyano are. Many of the bonus mini-comics center around the fellow classmates, and the group of boys are always hanging around each other and have lives and interests of their own.
Each volume has a list of translation notes that breaks down any and all terms that western audiences may not be familiar with. It’s a wonderful way to clarify honorifics and terms from both Japanese culture and the BL genre, which helps newer readers ease into unfamiliar territory without resorting to a big exposition dump. It keeps the main story clean and offers clarity.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
CW: Some sexually leaning conversations/topics (usually in regard to explaining BL tropes), scenes involving bullying, mild language.
The volumes are quite short and the price point matches that of a regular manga despite its much smaller size. Each individual volume’s main story barely breaks a hundred pages, though there are several bonus stories included in each installment.
The timeline jumps forward quite a bit from chapter to chapter, making it hard to follow the plot at times as it’s not clearly defined. The only clue as to what month/season the chapter is set is in the table of contents. At times, several months will have gone by and it's hard to tell.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Sasaki and Miyano is a delightful and well-received manga that has captivated Western audiences since its English debut in early 2021. Touted as one of the most well-loved and -received series in the Yen Press lineup, this refreshing and cozy little manga captures snippets of the day-to-day life of a budding relationship in the midst of navigating high school life. With the recent release of the anime adaptation through Funimation and the release date of volume 5 dropping, the series has seen a spike in fans since the start of the year.
With its soft charm, easygoing characters, and low-stress school days narrative, the story of the BL fanboy and his well-meaning, love-struck classmate will easily become your next comfort series. The easy to follow format, bite-sized chapters, and reader friendly storyline that walks you through the tropes of BL (in both a manner that explains them and pokes fun at them) makes Sasaki and Miyano a great introduction to the genre for those who want to test the waters, or readers who simply want a cozy feel-good read to return to time and again. Full of meet-cutes, quirky and down-to-earth writing, and otaku humor, the journey of the titular duo is a charming one.
HOW DO I READ IT?
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