By Leroy Douresseaux
November 27, 2006 - 13:00
The narrative follows the new adventures of a young, teen boy named Keita Itou, who suddenly receives a mysterious acceptance letter to attend an all-boys school, Bell Liberty Academy. Surprisingly, the other students are very accepting of Keita, and he draws the attention of Niwa Tetsuya and Saionji Karou - known as the King and Queen of Bell Liberty (also known as BL Academy). Calling Saionji "the Queen" might seem unusual to Keita, until he meet this beautiful young man. It is Niwa, however, who draws Keita's attention.
In the middle of this perfect time in his young life, the administration decides that Keita's admittance was a mistake, and they expel him from school. Every student at BL has a special ability, and Keita apparently having none makes his admission an error that must be corrected. Still, the other boys rally around him, and the just-announced campus-wide MVP Competition may be the chance Keita needs to show his special talent and perhaps, also earn Niwa's respect and maybe something more…
With it scenes of melodramatic love and teen angst, Gakuen Heaven is like the romance comics published by American comic book companies in the 1950's and 60's, except it's boy/boy romance and not boy/girl. Its beautiful, lovingly illustrated art is similar to John Romita, Sr.'s covers for Marvel and DC romance comics - with their luscious line work. You Higuri creates sequential art that personifies dreamy love. The narrative - fun, but filled with mystery and youthful conflict - is like a modern twist on the St. John romance comics of the 1950's. [See John Benson's informative and delightful book, Romance without Tears, for more on publisher Archer St. John; published by Fantagraphics Books].
Boys' love (also known as "BL") is a genre aimed at female readers, but even a male reader can enjoy such a well-produced volume once every blue moon. Still, reading Gakuen Heaven is a strange experience, as quite a bit of the… intimacy could be considered inappropriate in our culture, even now. Some scenes have litigation, scandal, and/or criminal proceedings written all over them - at least in the States.
Rating: 7 /10