Danika reviews Our Teachers are Dating! Vol. 1 by Pikachi Ohi

Our Teachers are Dating! Vol. 1 cover

I’ve been on a bit of a manga kick lately, especially lesbian manga. (See my post Lesbian Manga and Yuri Manga: What’s the Difference and Where Should You Start? for more.) My latest favourite has been How Do We Relationship?, and I’m always looking for more yuri manga with adult main characters. Unfortunately, Our Teachers are Dating! was a miss for me.

This series takes place in a sort of weird alternate universe of intense yuri fans. Hayama and Terano are two teachers who have just started dating, but they act just as awkward and shy as schoolgirls on their first dates. Their coworkers ship them–in fact, Bandou (one of the other female teachers) specifically applied to be at this all-girls school to cheer on yuri couples. She spies on them. It’s creepy. Their principal is also supportive, which is nice in the sense that she’s not homophobic, but is weird that no one even mentions the complications of two coworkers dating. In fact, they’re encouraged to go on a date at school??

I should mention at this point that I was a teacher very recently (I completed training about a year and a half ago, was a substitute teacher, and then had my first class end a few months ago). So it’s likely that this affected me more than the average reader, but I was completely taken out of the story by how unprofessional and even unethical they were acting. The dating at school was already weird–talking about your dating life with students is definitely beginning to cross a line. But that wasn’t the end of it! Hayamo confides in her students that she hasn’t said I love you yet (after a month??), but she has said “I’m attracted to you.” This is already way past what you should disclose to your students, but then her students convince her to practice saying it to photos of Terano on their phones. Another teacher walks in on what looks like her confessing her love to student, which is supposed to be a comedic moment, but it completely pulled me out of the story. Again, I know a teacher is likely not the intended audience here.

Even without that weirdness, I wasn’t into this story. It’s cute, but there are a lot of issues holding it back. It was originally published in a magazine format, and it feels disjointed. It also feels… I’m not sure the best way to say this, but it feels a bit indulgent, almost like fanservice. They are both blushing and cutesy, and there are so many closeups of kissing. There is a sex scene, but more than that are just a lot of panels of tongues. I’m all for sexy yuri, in fact, one of the things I liked about How Do We Relationship? was the frank sexual content, but it didn’t work for me here. It didn’t feel like a natural part of the story as much as suddenly zooming in on kissing over and over. There’s also a scene where Terano is admonished for always asking before touching or kissing Hayama and told basically that it makes her seem less enthusiastic, which I didn’t like.

I’m going to keep looking for yuri/lesbian manga with adult characters, but I was disappointed by this one.

MFred reviews Bittersweet by Nevada Barr

The back copy of Nevada Barr’s Bittersweet promised me a truthful, accurate portrayal of two women living together in the 1800s West.  Imogene, a spinster teacher, is forced from her job in the East when her secret affair with a female student is revealed.  She ends up in small Pennsylvania farming town, where she starts a friendship with Sarah Mary.  However, malicious gossip eventually finds her again, and Imogene and Sarah are chased out to Nevada, where they try to start again.

The book is equally Imogene and Sarah’s stories, which I found difficult.  Imogene is older, more experienced, and to me, much more interesting.  She is described as exceedingly tall and strong for a woman – so not only is she old, single, over-educated, but she also physically embodies the characteristics of spinsterhood.  Barr is not an explicit writer – the queerness of Imogene’s character is implied more than it is spelled out.  I wanted more of her, her inner feelings and struggles, than I got.

Sarah, on the other hand, is introduced as a child.  When she reaches around 15, she is married to a local neighbor.  Her life is difficult and hard; she is immature in both age and experience.  Her friendship with Imogene, I think, has more to do with Imogene’s loneliness than with a lot of commonality of character.  It takes Sarah quite a long time, in both page numbers and in plot, to become an interesting character.  Most of the time, I felt that Sarah was just a victim for Imogene to protect, not a true partner.

Without being too spoilery, here is Sarah trying to decide her future:

She squeezed her eyes shut and willed the words to heaven.  When she opened them she was alone and small under the ring of mountains, the little grave at her feet.  “If not, Lord, I’m going to cast my lot with love.”  The defiance returned and she added, “Half a year. I’ll listen half a year.” (198).

I think Bittersweet runs a bit slow and overly long, but Nevada Barr is a gifted writer.  The Old West comes alive, without cliche, in her writing.  Where Barr succeeds is in telling the lives of women– mothers, daughters, wives, and spinsters.  I found it fascinating and interesting, even when the story slowed down.