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by Rebecca Silverman,

Bad Teacher's Equation

GN 1

Bad Teacher's Equation GN 1
Atsushi Arisawa is pining after his childhood love, the angelic Ma-chan. So when he receives a letter telling him that Ma-chan is now the nurse at Jyogaoka High, he jumps at the chance to transfer from one of the top five schools to the infamous delinquent high. But when he gets there, not only does Ma-chan not resemble the boy he remembers, the boy he promised to marry is at the school too – and he would love to hold Atsushi to his all-but-forgotten vow! With so many handsome men, who will Atsushi choose?

Did you ever watch or read Cromartie High School and think, “This story's pretty good, but what it could really use is some yaoi?” If the answer is yes, Bad Teacher's Equation may be the series for you. But for those people who just read that opening line and shook their heads, steer clear. Kazuma Kodaka's 1993 tale of mistaken identity, inappropriate relationships, and unwanted attentions may take place in a delinquent (or “yankee” as June's translation calls it) high school, but it lacks the wackiness to pull it off, leaving readers to muddle through a tangled mess of intersecting plot lines and confused relationships.

The story opens with high school freshman Atsushi getting ready to transfer to the school he thinks childhood crush Ma-chan is teaching at. He knows it doesn't have a good reputation, but he is so focused on his love that he doesn't think of the consequences. However, when he reaches the nurse's office, he discovers that the man he has been pining for has made a complete 180 – gone is the sweet and gentle Ma-chan of memory, and in his place is a thuggish lout. Readers quickly learn that the reason he seems so different is that he is not, in fact, Ma-chan, but his similarly named brother. Atsushi takes most of the first half of this double-thick volume to realize that same fact, though, and Kodaka attempts to have his confusion drive that opening plot. Complicating matters is a chance meeting with Kōji Inagaki, a boy who used to defend Atsushi from bullies and whom he promised to marry in elementary school. Koji has reached the age of sixteen cherishing that memory, and he begins a dogged pursuit of our hero, who is not remotely interested.

As this series is largely a romance, enjoyable relationships are integral to its development. Among the many potential pairings, this story has one. The real Ma-chan (Masami) and fellow teacher Toru have just started on the rocky road to love, with Ma-chan wishing Toru would move just a little faster. They have some genuinely sweet moments...when the false Ma-chan (Masayoshi) isn't sabotaging them. That is one of the less wonderful relationships in the series – Masayoshi, while fervently denying any homosexuality on his part – is apparently overfond of his brother in a decidedly sexual way. This sort of one-sided relationship abounds in the series. By the second half of the book, Atsushi has declared himself in love with Masayoshi and pursues him determinedly. This isn't good on at least two levels – the one being that Masayoshi very clearly does not welcome Atsushi's advances, constituting them as sexual harassment, and the other being that Masayoshi is a teacher and Atsushi is underage. Without putting the kibosh on this relationship openly, Masayoshi leaves himself open to all sorts of trouble. Granted, this is a story about Japan and not the United States, but as this edition is being marketed in the U.S., these issues need to be considered. By this measure, the also non-consensual relationship between Koji and Atsushi is less of a problem, but it still features one boy forcing unwanted physical contact on the other, making it uncomfortable for some readers.

Kodaka's art for this series is very different from what appears on the cover, making perhaps the best comparison Viz's editions of Miki Aihara's Tokyo Boys and Girls, where the inside art was markedly worse than the cover art. Like that other series, June's edition is a reprint of the original 1993 run, with two volumes combined into one and new covers. The result is that we have the early work of an artist who will later be quite accomplished...but hasn't quite hit her stride yet. Heads are consistently the wrong size for bodies, movements are stiff, and character designs are dated. (Masayoshi suffers from a drastic case of 1980s hair.) Kodaka's shonen origins are also clear in some of her references, with homage paid to Slam Dunk in one section and a possible Initial D (or a similar earlier series) reference elsewhere. These aren't detractions per se, but they do feel odd and out of place.

While Kodaka's later series, such as Border, handle the yaoi genre without most of the cliches that make it distasteful, Bad Teacher's Equation falls short of that mark. Every man in the series appears to be gay, the one female character with any development who isn't shown exclusively from the back is a fujoshi, and most of the attentions are unwanted. While these are not true of all yaoi, they are part of what makes it inaccessible to the masses. If these things do not bother you, which is by no means a bad thing, than there is plenty to enjoy here. However, those new to yaoi may not want to start their journey with this particular series. Bad Teacher's Equation is a confused, confusing tangle of a story that drags when it isn't uncomfortable. Chalk it up as evidence that even the most accomplished storyteller needs time to hit her stride and read one of her later works instead.

Overall : D+
Story : D
Art : B-

+ A lot of book for your buck, one couple worth following.
Confusing, non-linear plot, too many non-consensual relationships, one student-teacher “romance” may make this uncomfortable for some.

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Kazuma Kodaka
Licensed by: Digital Manga Publishing

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