I should note that just because I tend to prefer yaoi about grown-ups doesn’t mean I never enjoy yaoi about teen-agers. There’s an intensity of emotion and a difficulty in expressing it clearly that’s ascribed to youth, and it’s reliable story fodder. If the creator takes a light, smart touch with that material, the results can be charming. Case in point: the first volume of Yaya Sakuragi’s Tea for Two (Blu). It’s a sweet, silly, opposites-attract story.
Tokumaru is a clumsy jock type. His sister reaches the breaking point with the breakage and insists he join their school’s tea ceremony club to “learn composure and grace if it kills [him]!” The club is run by stoic, dignified Hasune, who may have taken composure a little too far. Nobody who’s read a single chapter of a single yaoi title will be shocked to hear that these very different young men find themselves falling for each other, but Sakuragi does a nice job selling the notion that Tokumaru and Hasune are surprised, and pleasantly so.
Sakuragi also does a nice job establishing the couple’s chemistry. Tokumaru isn’t just a klutz, and Hasune isn’t just frosty. Each has qualities that the other can admire, and each displays a nice sensitivity to the other’s feelings. There’s a bit of a courtship dance, but they’re refreshingly frank about their feelings long before reticence gets a chance to become tiresome. The book is as much or more about sustaining a relationship between two very different people as it is starting one.
The look of the book supports the story. The protagonists are lanky and masculine, though they still look like they could be in high school. Sakuragi has more fun with Tokumaru’s facial expressions for the simple fact that he allows himself to have them more often than Hasune does, but she manages to work in some nice slyness and subtext into Hasune’s looks. The book is also reasonably sexy, whether or not the characters are having sex at the time.
There are two bonus stories. I adored the short piece about a fateful meeting between Tokumaru’s and Hasune’s sisters, which provides witty, opposites-repel counterpoint to the main story. The other back-up didn’t work as well for me. In it, the guy who provides sweets and cakes for the tea club, Keigo, makes a classic relationship blunder. Keigo, it’s natural to have a crush on the wrong person, but I beg you, hold out for someone who isn’t quite so high-maintenance.