Ichigenme: The First Class is Civil Law

Ichigenme: The First Class is Civil Law Volumes 1 and 2 by Fumi Yoshinaga

For the Manga Moveable Feast I wanted to read something I hadn’t read before by Yoshinaga, and since I’ve read most of her other series already, the only thing left was some of her yaoi titles. I decided to go with Ichigenme: The First Class is Civil Law.

Tamiya joins a new zemi (seminar group) for law school. Although he’s a hard-working student, he’s ended up in a peer group full of rich kids who devote their time to goofing off. As part of a hazing ritual for third year students Toudou, a long-haired spoiled son of a politician performs an elaborate striptease for his fellow classmates. He winds up by giving Tamiya a kiss in order to distract everyone from making Tamiya strip too. Tamiya’s classmates make casual plans to go to Hokkaido to ski for the weekend. When they invite him along and offer to pay for him, he says that he’ll go along with them if it is something he can pay for but “I don’t want anyone paying for something I can’t pay them back for.” Tamiya’s seriousness and integrity provide a stark contrast to the attitudes of his classmates, and Toudou decides that Tamiya is “pretty cool.”

The first volume centers on the growing friendship between Tamiya and Toudou. When his father is caught up in a political scandal, Toudou is ostracized by all of his classmates except Tamiya. While Toudou is comfortable with his sexuality, Tamiya isn’t quite willing to admit that he’s gay even though he’s never been attracted to women. This manga is one of Yoshinaga’s earlier works, but her facility for creating compelling slice of life stories is in full effect. The students get drunk, avoid studying, have unfortunate run-ins with faculty, and in some cases slowly grow up. Toudou and Tamiya’s relationship progresses slowly, and while they do get physical Toudou is left wondering if Tamiya only wants him to stay over due to the elaborate breakfasts he prepares the next morning. When Tamiya turns down a classmate’s advances saying that he doesn’t think he could ever be with a woman. She says “I’ll…have to tell people, okay?” Tamiya replies that he doesn’t care, and his expression switches from blank to peaceful. He says to himself “Somehow…I feel much better.”

The second volume shows Tamiya and Toudou in a more established relationship. Toudou is breaking away from his family’s expectations and working at a games development company and Tamiya has become a teacher. They struggle with having enough time to spend with each other. Toudou’s younger brother is also the focus of some of the stories in this volume, as he takes up with a professor. The first volume of Ichigenme had a few sex scenes, but was more focused on character interaction. The second volume flips the formula, with sex scenes punctuated by occasional glimpses of the characters going out to dinner, struggling with pressure from work, or dealing with the aftermath of a new haircut.

As a whole, I liked Ichigenme more than most of the yaoi I’ve tried. It doesn’t have some of the problematic genre elements that tend to annoy me in many yaoi titles, like a reliance on rape scenarios or the insistence that the men in the story aren’t really gay, they’re just “truly in love.” Instead Yoshinaga creates stories about believable people who fall in love with each other.

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Comments

  1. Yoshinaga does quite nicely break some of the yaoi stereotypes in her work. Which is why I love her.
    I really like the quick little scene where Tohdou despairs that Tamiya might only be with him because he enjoys the good food. 🙂 Then later, when Tamiya is talking with some friends about how he doesn’t like a relationship where one person does all the work (or something like that), Tohdou begins to think he’s completely useless to Tamiya.

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