Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Way of Tea review

Title: Koi Cha no Osahou
Mangaka: Sakuragi Yaya
Serialized in: Asuka Ciel (Kadokawa Shoten)
Genre: Yaoi, School life
Licensed by: BluManga

Koi Cha no Osahou (The Way of Tea) is, perhaps, my favorite yaoi series at the moment... as it has been for the last few months. (Don't tell anyone my whole LiveJournal is themed after it, okay?) It was available in scanlations, but the big news of my afternoon is that the title has just been licensed by BluManga!

The series begins with our uke, Tokumaru Madoka, showing us exactly how much he can stand up to his little sister, Nagomi -- that is to say, not at all. It seems he's just broken one of her favorite photo frames (again) and she's had enough of his clumsy, rough-housing ways. To teach him a little finesse and some basic etiquette, she orders him to join the tea ceremony club at high school that she is also a part of. Grumbling the entire time, he does as he's told. It's at the club meeting that we -- and Tokumaru -- first lay eyes on Hasune Kazuma, the president of the club. Hasune is the son of the Tea Ceremony School's headmaster and he's also our devilishly handsome seme.

Tokumaru makes quite an impression right off the bat: the kind of impression bound to give Hasune a migraine. From his first gulp of bitter ceremony tea, Tokumaru shows he has a lot to learn about the way of tea... and the way of love. Good thing for him, Hasune's just the guy to teach him... not that Hasune doesn't learn a few things along the way himself.

Koi Cha is one of the cutest yaoi manga I've read in a while. The characters feel well-rounded and three-dimensional, and you can actually see how compatible they are with each other without the idea being forced, with something like lust or out-of-control teenaged hormones -- though those are present as well. Tokumaru isn't a doe-eyed "prettier than a girl" girl-substitute. He's a rough and tumble high school boy, tall and lanky, who's very athletic -- the star of the baseball team and a student teacher at a dojo -- and not once would you ever mistake him for a girl. He's got very male thought patterns, unlike most ukes, and bungles things up as often as he gets them right... though he does get a lot of things right.

Hasune is... well, I kinda want him. He's a deadpanned, cold-hearted bastard -- but actually very sweet. It takes a little bit of getting to know him to realize that the uncrackable expression doesn't really show much of what's going on behind the scenes. His "turned on" look is barely distinguishable from his "irritated as hell" look. But Hasune isn't mean to Tokumaru, which also sets it aside from a lot of yaoi mangas. There's not a single scene that involves uke-tears and rape. In fact, the only time Tokumaru cries is over losing the baseball championship. They have issues, of course, and rub each other the wrong way just as often as the right, but there's an undeniable "give and take" to their relationship that makes it feel wonderfully real.

There are two bonuses that go a long way to putting this on my favorites list. One is the shoujo-ai relationship between Hasune's sister Kotoko and Tokumaru's sister Nagomi. They're rivals in their karate competitions and while Nagomi sees the other girl as an arch-rival and competition (being the only girl to ever beat her), Kotoko, with the same unfortunate deadpanned expressions as Hasune, is filled with secret "squee" at Nagomi's cuteness. She even skips important family functions for the sake of her competitions, just because she can't pass up a single opportunity to see her adorable little competitor. I'm waiting for the omakes just as anxiously as I am for the real chapters, just to see if the sisters get together.

The other bonus is that the first time Hasune and Tokumaru have sex holds the record as the hottest oral sex scene I have ever seen in any yaoi manga, hands-down. I don't generally like oral sex scenes in yaoi, as they often feel contrived and stilted in the way of the worst porn videos, but this one was ... well, it was hot, yo. Ahem.

Sakuragi's artwork is well-proportioned and expressive, her storytelling is witty and wry, but her real talent lies in her characterization. These are not genre cliché characters in stock situations, even though they are everyday people in an everyday kind of world. Her characters grow and evolve with each chapter, all the while remaining consistent. She's good at this kind of thing; another of her series -- a smaller tale called Calorie -- shows the same kind of dexterity at making her characters and storyline seem familiar and common without seeming worn and trite. I wish Sakuragi a long and prolific career with many, many US-licensed titles.

In the meantime, do yourself a favor and take a glance at Koi Cha no Osahou, where sarcasm is the language of love and finding your own path in life is the name of the game. It's a hot, funny read with a little bit of relationship advice thrown in for free. You could do worse in picking out yaoi, but in my opinion, you'd be hard pressed to do better.

Reviewer: mjules
Proofer: Iliana
Editor: Jiji

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