The Heart of Thomas (Thomas no Shinzou) is one of the earliest Boys' Love manga, written and illustrated by Moto Hagio (a contemporary and friend of Keiko Takemiya, together with whom she is known as a pioneer of the genre). The manga was serialized in Shuukan Shoujo Comic from May 5 to December 22, 1974. Despite its short run, The Heart of Thomas had a profound impact on shoujo manga as a medium; its stylistic and narrative trademarks would be adopted by other shoujo manga and become standard tropes of shoujo from that point on.
The story starts with a letter from the eponymous Thomas Werner to the young man he loves, confessing his feelings and the desire to have a place in his beloved's heart. Juli Bauernfeind, to whom the letter was addressed, appears to be indifferent to it all. However, his world is shaken further by New Transfer Student Erich Frühling, a boy with looks identical to Thomas. The two clashes with each other almost immediately and many hidden problems are revealed.
The manga eventually received an English translation, released in 2013 by Fantagraphics. The translation is by Rachel Thorn, a veteran shoujo manga translator who has written several articles on boys-love manga.
The Heart of Thomas presents examples of:
- All Love Is Unrequited:
- Beneath the Mask: Juli appears to be a model student and son. However, he has problems connecting to other people.
- Ambiguously Bi: Juli. Before leaving for seminary, Juli tells Erich that around him, all his good memories return. Among those memories? The first girl he liked.
- Bittersweet Ending: Juli is able to open his heart to others again and admits that he loved Thomas, and goes off to seminary, leaving Erich and Oskar behind. Erich realizes he loves Juli but is forced to bid him farewell. And Thomas is still dead.
- Corporal Punishment: Erich, a previously homeschooled child, is shocked when a teacher attempts to strike him with a cane.
- Downer Beginning: The story opens with Thomas's suicide.
- Held Back in School: Oskar's father took him traveling for a year instead of keeping him in school; as a result, he's one grade level behind.
- Incest Subtext: Erich has an unhealthy attachment to his mother. He's jealous of all of her lovers, to the point that he gets sent to boarding school to mitigate it.
- New Transfer Student: Erich, whose arrival at the school kicks off the story's main conflict due to looking very similar to Thomas, the newly dead boy.
- One-Gender School: The story takes place at an all-boys school in Germany. Given the kind of story this is, all the connotations are there.
- Parental Abandonment:
- Juli's father died when he was young.
- Oskar's father left him at the school a year after his mother's death. His biological father is the Headmaster, who slept with Oskar's mother at her request because she could not conceive with her husband. Oscar knows the truth, and secretly hopes for the Headmaster to adopt him).
- Erich's parents are divorced, and his father is never seen. Later, his mother dies.
- Posthumous Character: Thomas, who commits suicide at the beginning of the story.
- Rape as Backstory: Siegfried and his friends may have done more than just torture poor Juli...Juli: (to Erich) [Siegfried] and his friends used me as they pleased [...] I had no say in it at all.
- Scars are Forever: Juli has a deep scar below his clavicle, which he sees as a Mark of Shame, as well as whip marks on his back, all as a result of Siegfried's abuse
- Staircase Tumble: Juli has fallen down the stairs twice.
- The first time, Juli saved another boy from falling instead. He stayed indoors while healing to keep the boy from seeing his injured ankle.
- The second time, Oskar clapped him on the back too roughly, leading to a dramatic fall and the discovery of far more serious injuries.
- The Unfavorite: Juli's grandmother treats him coldly because he has his father's dark hair. She favors his blonde little sister.