Samejima-kun and Sasahara-kun by Koshino

Reviewed by Cait
Published in print by Juné


Short Answer: Adorably Awkward

From the back cover: “Samejima-kun has just mustered up the courage to tell his co-worker (and classmate) Sasahara-kun that he loves him… but now what? Will the two fumbling friends fall into a frenzy of forbidden ecstasy? Or will they annoy one another to death before their clothes even come off?

“Samejima-kun and Sasahara-kun proves that forsaking friendship for the pleasures of passion isn’t all it’s cracked up to be! Can true love flourish after a sudden storeroom confession? Or will bloody war erupt over a few pieces of stolen chocolate?”

Samejima is a socially awkward introvert with germophobia. Sasahara is selfish and inconsiderate. Their friendship was an odd-couple to be sure, but their romance is on a whole different level. What makes this book entertaining isn’t the BL elements. If anything, the whole “I’m not gay, it’s just you” trope has gotten stale, and those niggling details become a distraction from what is otherwise a very interesting take on this friends-to-lovers tale.

I typically don’t go for embarrassingly awkward stories, but somehow Koshino pulls off awkward without making the characters unwatchable. There are times when Samejima’s reticence to pursue Sasahara outright becomes aggravating, and there are times when Sasahara’s insensitivity to Samejima’s feelings are obnoxious, but they are both very realistic, very likable people. They have good points and they have bad points and most importantly they see and accept those features in one another like true friends. It’s what makes their burgeoning romance believable.

And it’s all so light-hearted even as it is played completely serious. Their emotions and reactions to each other are over-the-top, but to them they are real. This is the best kind of humor for me. Even the sex scenes, in all their awkward glory, are entertaining. This might put some off who are looking for sex to always be hot, but taken as a whole I think presenting it in a traditional BL romance way would have broken the flow of the narrative.

It is also incredibly refreshing that Sasahara, the assumed uke, states his intentions to also top. We just don’t see enough reversible couples in BL, it’s always nice when one turns up (even if it’s never shown in the book). Likewise, it isn’t common to see the supporting cast, in this case Samejima and Sasahara’s friends and co-workers, not be completely oblivious to the main couple’s relationship. Homosexuality being a taboo is typically a driving force behind the titillation of BL plotlines, but there is enough general awkwardness between Samejima and Sasahara that adding the whole world against them for being gay would have been too much. Their friends in particular are pretty quick on the uptake and take the boys’ new relationship in stride.

This is my first Koshino title. Her art is messy and it’s sometimes difficult to discern characters from each other when there is more than the main couple in the panels. Backgrounds are sparse, but the story is about the characters, so only a limited amount of setting is really needed. The art may be a distraction to those accustomed to traditional shojo BL style, but the story isn’t traditional BL shojo romance, either, so it’s easy to look past. Two of her other works are available on eManga through DMG, one of them featuring a character that appears in this book as an extra.

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About cmbranford

Twitter: @cmbranford
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