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Manga / Classmates

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"A boy met a boy. They were in the flush of youth. They were in love that felt like a dream, like sparkling soda pop."

Classmates (Doukyusei) is a manga by Asumiko Nakamura with several sequels and Spin-Offs. In 2016, the first work was adapted in an animated film produced by A-1 Pictures and directed by Shoko Nakamura, Doukyusei -Classmates-.

In an all-boys high school, a class is preparing for an upcoming chorus festival. As the boys sing, Hikaru Kusakabe notices that one of his classmates, Rihito Sajou, is not making any noise. Kusakabe is a sleepy-eyed, carefree slacker who plays guitar in a band, Sajou is a straight-laced and serious honor student who got perfect scores on every subject on his entrance exam. Kusabake concludes that the two come from completely different worlds, so there's no reason the two would have any reason to talk, and as such, he'll never know why Sajou doesn't sing.

But by a twist of fate, Kusakabe and Sajou have a strange, quiet encounter alone in their empty classroom, and on the spur of the moment, Kusakabe offers to teach Sajou the song. In that moment, everything changes.

Not to be confused with the classic Dating Sim of the same name.

List of works in publication order:

  • Dou kyu sei (2006–2007)
  • Sotsu gyo sei (Winter) (2008)
  • Sotsu gyo sei (Spring) (2009)
  • Sora and Hara (2009–2011)
  • O.B. (2012–2013)
  • blanc (2018–2020)
  • home (2020–2022)
  • Sajou Rihito no Chichi to Sono Buka (2022–)


  • Accidental Hand-Hold: In the first chapter, Sajou and Kusakabe both rushed to pick up the latter's drink after dropping it in shock, causing the trope to happen. This sparked something in Kusakabe and directly led to their First Kiss in the spur of the moment.
  • Adapted Out: While the movie is incredibly faithful to the first volume it was based on, "His First", the third chapter between "Autumn" and " A Complex Fool and a Simple Fool" which Hara-Sen recounts his faithful meeting with Sajou in first year, was cut out entirely. This left him with significantly less screen time and without the reason why he fell in love with Sajou in the first place.
  • Almost Kiss: Hara attempted to kiss Sajou twice, despite the latter already having Kusakabe, but both times failed due to Kusakabe's timely intervention.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Thinking Sajou was practicing the song for Hara-Sen, Kusakabe suddenly runs off in the middle of the choir performance in tears with Sajou following suit. Once they are alone and Sajou asked why he left, Kusakabe promptly breaks down hard and sputters out that he may have a crush on him. While Sajou was more or less confused over the whole ordeal, he clears up the misunderstanding by stating he practiced the song for him, not Hara-Sen. This causes Kusakabe to stop crying and bewilderedly look at him, not believing Sajou actually reciprocated his feelings.
  • Beat Panel: Frequently used in humorous moments.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Blanc ends with the Sajou and Kusakabe reconciling and Happily Married with a wedding ceremony attended by their friends, family and about every significant character in the series. However, it doesn't change the fact that the former's mother succumb to her cancer as well as being unable to fix his rocky relationship with his father, especially after he found out Sajou was gay. However, they're starting to repair their relationship by the time Home rolls around.
  • Blanket Fort: Kusakabe makes one in "Home", as it's cold in their new apartment and they have yet to unpack any furniture.
  • Bridal Carry: Kusakabe performs one on Sajou in one of the bonus chapters in "Sora to Hara" saying he always wanted to try it. However, he's clearly struggling from the weight of a full-grown man his size and only manages a few steps before collapsing onto the hotel bed.
  • Cake Toppers: There are chibi ones of Kusakakabe and Sajou holding hands on their wedding cake.
  • Callback: Blanc's cover art for chapters 1 through 8 are the backgrounds of places or locations significant in Doukyuusei such as the park where Kusakabe kissed Sajou for the first time and the highway they took to Sajou's mock exam.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Sajou calls out his father for not being there for him and Kumi for most of his childhood, and for his narrow-mindedness after his violent, homophobic response to Sajou's coming out.
    Sajou: Oh, I'm ashamed alright! To have been born to such a stuffy, bigoted father! You work overseas and yet you still have the same narrow worldview! That's why you never noticed the first thing about your own son! Now your wife's left you behind! And you'll live the rest of your life alone! Sad and lonely!
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Doukyusei didn't have much tension, so its sequel Sotsugyousei upped the angst by having Sajou's mother diagnosed with cancer and the couple's fear of separation because of Sajou attending university at Kyoto while Kusakabe wants to stay in Tokyo. Blanc then intensifies it when Sajou interprets Kusakabe saying they don't have to rush getting married as him forgetting the promise they made in Sotsugyousei, and asks to take a break from their relationship which Kusakabe, in turn, misinterprets as Sajou wanting to end it. If that's not enough, Sajou's mother is back in the hospital after her cancer becomes severe (before eventually succumbing to it) then his father shows up right after.
  • Character Death: Sajou's mother dies from pneumonia because of the cancer weakening her immune system.
  • Coming of Age Story: The basis of the series.
  • Cry into Chest: Sajou cries into Kusakabe's chest in Blanc chapter 9, after reaching his breaking point and letting out the feelings he's been holding back.
  • Double Entendre: In a bonus comic for Blanc.
    Kusakabe: "We've already experienced the first bite!"
    Sajou: "Huh?"
    Kusakabe: "Ages ago, when I put my finger in from behind, and you bit me."
    Kusakabe: "In your mouth, I mean."
    Sajou: "Right... in my mouth..."
  • Depraved Bisexual: Ryuichi, Koma's ex-boyfriend, swings both ways and is incredibly slimy as shown by him engaging in Three-Way Sex with Koma and a random lady before stealing their valuables while they are asleep. The next time Koma sees him after their breakup, Ryuichi has been fooling around with the ladies as well as young boys in the neighbourhood and was recently divorced because of it, being only able to see his daughter once a year.
  • Downer Beginning: Unlike the other main entries in the series, Blanc opens with a more depressing tone as the protagonists struggle with misunderstandings and insecurities in their relationship and life paths, eventually leading to them breaking up at the end of chapter 1.
  • Episode Title Card: Each chapter is prefaced with a minimalist title card in the anime film.
  • Exotic Eye Designs: All the characters, upon close-up, have pupils that look like a solar eclipse from the center due to how it's drawn.
  • Expressive Hair: Many characters who become shocked are portrayed with stray strands of hair sticking out with Kusakabe, who already has messy, poofy hair, being easily the biggest offender.
  • The Faceless: You can tell who are the background characters by their lack of eyes and other obscure or less-detailed facial features.
  • Fangirl: Tani's wife who is a die-hard fan of Z'GOK when the band was around and still is to this day. She's especially excited over Kusakabe the lead guitarist much to Sajou's jealously.
  • First Kiss: Kusakabe impulsively kisses Sajou on the lips when they both reached out for the former's spilled drink at the same time, impacting both their lives forever and beginning their blossoming relationship.
  • First Love: Sajou is this for Kusakabe as well as his only love.
  • First-Name Basis: Starting from O.B., Kusakabe and Sajou decided to call each other Hikaru and Rihito since they would eventually share a last name after marrying.
  • Foreshadowing: Sajou's dream after passing out in the train station involves Kusakabe cutting the yellow ribbon between them (representing their relationship) but promising to re-tie it later after they sort things out. This becomes the plot of Blanc where both characters were going through a low point in their lives, Sajou requests a break from their relationship but Kusakabe misinterpreted as ending it and returns the former's ring, spent several chapters regretting and missing one another, dealing with Sajou's mother dying before finally making up and marrying.
  • Gay Groom in a White Tux: Both Sajou and Kusakabe wear white tuxedos for their wedding in Blanc complete with matching white-rose veils gifted by Koma.
  • The Glomp: Kusakabe does this to Sajou multiple times, usually after Sajou does something particularly romantic.
    • Sajou has taken to doing this as of Home.
  • Hair-Contrast Duo: As another parallel to Opposites Attract, Sajou's hair is straight and black while Kusakabe has his dyed-blond and is naturally curly (Described as "fluffy" by others).
  • High-School Sweethearts: Sajou and Kusakabe began dating during high school which continues well after graduation and into Sajou's university years before finally marrying and living together. While not showing much affection in public, their relationship is very lovey-dovey and intimate in private.
  • Hot Springs Episode: Home chapter 5.
  • Insult of Endearment: Sajou calls Kusakabe "Idiot"note  whenever the latter says something romantic that embarrassed him.
    • Kusakabe's mother also calls her children this.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: In Doukyuusei chapter 3. As Kusakabe and Sajou are about to share a kiss in an empty classroom, Hara chooses to barge in at that moment and tell them to go home, much to Kusakabe's chagrin.
    • Also happens in Home chapter 5, as the ryokan hostess walks in on Kusakabe feeding Sajou a bite of his meal. She's totally fine with it, however.
  • Irony: Considering Sajou was his First Love but was taken by Kusakabe, which he considered his (one-sided) romantic rival, Hara-sen's Second Love turns out to be Sorano whose cheerful, free-spirited personality is more like Kusakabe's than the reserved Sajou's.
  • It's Okay to Cry: Pretty much the basis of Sotsugyousei chapter The Tears That Don't Spill Over, where Sajou represses his feelings as he balances school, cram school, and caring for his mother in hospital. The chapter ends with Sajou finally breaking down in tears into Kusakabe's arms after his mother's surgery.
    Kusakabe: "...You don't cry, Sajou. You never cry. I've never seen it."
    Sajou: "No. I cry when I need to."
    Kusakabe: "So you just don't cry in front of me. Maybe you don't trust me with that."
    Sajou: "Kusakabe..."
    Kusakabe: "You can let your guard down with me. I want you to stop trying so hard. I hate it. Like, I get worried. I always wanna ask if you're okay... but when I do... you just say you're fine. I hate making you lie like that. It sucks."
  • Love at First Note: Their first real meeting (and the moment Kusakabe falls for Sajou) is when Kusakabe walks in on Sajou practicing the song for their class's choir festival. Downplayed, as Sajou isn't a very good singer.
  • Love at First Sight: Same as above. Kusakabe then-unknowingly falls hard for Sajou as he sits on his desk with the sunlight illuminating him through the classroom windows.
  • Make-Out Kids: During their high school years, Kusakabe and Sajou never went further than kissing in privacy but boy do they do so heavily and passionately. They finally advanced to the next level at the end of Sotsu gyo sei while skipping their graduation ceremony...on their classroom floor.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Sajou and Kusakabe have their first time in the classroom where they met... while skipping their graduation ceremony.
    • Sajou remembers this moment during Home, and cringes in embarrassment at how bold they were.
  • May–December Romance:
    • Hara-Sen had initially wanted to be in one with Sajou but thought it would be wise to wait until graduation to ask him out (Too bad Kusakabe came into the picture before he even had the chance). Years later, Hara-Sen is 37 years old and single in "Sora to Hara". Still reeling from his former crush, he kisses a guy in a nightclub who is later revealed to be Sorano, one of his first-year students and 15 years of age. Unsurprisingly, Hara was shocked to realize the twenty-two year difference between them but over the course of the manga, Sorano became his Second Love and agreed to date him after his graduation (though Hara refuses to have sex with him until he turned twenty).
    • Kusakabe's parents turn out to be this in Blanc. His father can easily pass off as his grandfather and gets a lot of flak for remarrying one of his employees nearly half his age but nonetheless are Happily Married.
  • Meet the In-Laws: Chapter 10 of Blanc is pretty much dedicated to this with Sajou (And the audience) properly meeting Kusakabe's parents and sister for the first time.
  • Nerds Are Virgins: When thinking about taking their relationship to the next level, Kusakabe notes that Sajou is most likely a virgin. (Of course, this is no longer the case by the end of Sotsugyosei.)
  • No Full Name Given: Countless minor characters are only referred to by last name. Even Kusakabe himself was only given a first name halfway through the first manga.
  • Noodle People: Long, angular limbs are a trademark of Asumiko Nakamura's art style.
  • "No Peeking!" Request: Sajou tells Kusakabe to not look at him while he's getting undressed and washed for the onsen in Home. Ironic, as Kusakabe has seen him naked plenty of times with how frequently they have sex.
  • Official Couple: The main characters, Sajou and Kusakabe, and the two Beta Couples, Hara-sen and Sorano and Hibiki and Satoshi, from Sora And Hara.
  • One-Gender School: The setting of the first four volumes is Tofuya Number One High School, an all-boy's school.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted on a meta-level, in that Asumiko Nakamura is the original mangaka, Shoko Nakamura directed the anime adaption, and Chieko Nakamura was the art director. None of these women are related.
  • Opposites Attract: Basically the premise. Sajou is straight-laced, studious and emotionally reserved whereas Kusakabe is laid-back, directionless and very honest about his feelings, yet they are madly in love with each other. The two complement and bring out the best in one another with Sajou being more open to his feelings overtime and Kusakabe finding purpose in life.
    • This is also reflected by their upbringing, Sajou is expected to excel in grades and follow his family's steps in becoming a doctor but is extremely distanced and close-off as a result. Kusakabe's family is close-knit and very accepting considering his parents are a May–December Romance while his sister is pregnant before marriage, hence his easy-going nature.
  • Over-the-Shoulder Carry: In order to prevent Sajou from backing out going into the hot springs with him in Home, Kusakabe performed this maneuver to convince him otherwise (which is a more successful attempt compared to the last time he tried carrying him).
  • Precision F-Strike: The only time Sajou properly swears in the series is directed at his father after not being there for his mother when she passed away and instead trivially and homophobically focusing on Sajou's relationship with Kusakabe.
  • Rage Breaking Point: After holding in his emotions from breaking up with Kusakabe and dealing with the grief of his mother's death (not to mention his lifelong fear of homophobia), what finally sends Sajou over the edge is his father's violent and homophobic response to his coming out, to the point where Kusakabe has to physically restrain Sajou. It gets uglier when his father switches targets to insult the love of his life.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: While having a drink after work, Hara's co-worker Hashimoto shares an anecdote about how him and one of his student used to stare at each other but nothing came out of it. Hashimoto brought it up since he correctly sensed Hara was going through the same thing...too bad the moment was ruined due to an incorrect assumption.
    Hashimoto: "I didn't make it clear how I felt then, and that... I do regret that, I suppose."
    Hara-sen: ... [Sips drink]
    Hashimoto: "Hara-Sensei. It's Hikaru Kusakabe, yes?"
  • Scenery Porn: The movie uses its fair share of beautifully rendered watercolor backgrounds.
  • Senior Year Struggles: Basically what Sotsugyosei is about.
  • Share Phrase: Kusakabe's hair being described as "fluffy" by various people in their inner monologue or thoughts.
  • Shout-Out: The name and logo of Kusakabe's band, Z'GOK, is a reference to Mobile Suit Gundam. His childhood nickname, "Job John" is also one.
  • Sickening Sweethearts: In spite of Sajou and Kusakabe not displaying much public affection, the off-handed comments about their relationship is enough to make people envious and/or embarrassed, especially for Sajou's friends.
  • Silly Love Songs: In Blanc, Kusakabe writes a slow acoustic song called "Kimi to Boku",note  reminiscing on when he and Sajou first fell in love, and how much he loves and misses him. It can be listened to in the drama CD.
  • Single Tear: Kusakabe sheds one during the choir performance upon thinking he's gonna lose Sajou to Hara afterwards, causing the performance abruptly stop and go off the rails once the others notice.
  • Situational Sexuality: Averted. Hara-sen claims Kusakabe is this in an attempt to come between him and Sajou, and Sajou almost believes it, but Kusakabe quickly proves him wrong.
  • Spin-Off: Sora to Hara focuses on Hara-sen and his love life or rather lack thereof until Sorano came into the picture. The story also introduces more characters such as Koma (A fashion designer and Hara Sen's drinking buddy), Satoshi (A former teacher of Hara-Sen's) and Hibiki (Satoshi's lover).
  • Teacher/Student Romance: The other two official couples with Hara-sen and Satoshi as the teachers to their students Sarano and Hibiki respectively though it's subverted as they only started dating after graduation.
  • Theme Naming: Hikaru and Rihito (Licht) both mean "light" in Japanese and German, respectively.
  • Title Drop: At the end of Sotsugyousei.
    Kusakabe: "(The season we first met.)"
    Sajou: "(The season you were there.)"
    Both: "(The season we were classmates.)"
  • Umbrella of Togetherness: In the second chapter of Doukyusei.
  • Uptight Loves Wild: Inverted, Kusakabe, the laidback, directionless guitarist, was the one to confess his unexpected feelings for Sajou, the straight-laced honor student, who in turn felt the same. The trope is emphasised by how they dress with Satou being old-fashioned, formal and well-groomed while Kusakabe is more modern, casual and unkempt.
  • Wide Eyes and Shrunken Irises: How they portray people who are especially shocked that they are stunned speechless.

Alternative Title(s): Doukyuusei, Doukyusei, Doukyusei Classmates