Tuesday, August 3, 2021

REVIEW: La Esperança (manga, vol. 1) by Chigusa Kawai, translated by Sachiko Sato

La Esperança is a school drama series with (so far) light BL romance elements. It was licensed by Digital Manga Publishing and appears to be out of print now. I bought my copy used.

This review includes slight spoilers.


Georges is well-liked by everyone at his school. He helps everyone feel at ease, but he also keeps everyone at a distance due to feelings of guilt about the lives his father has ruined. Then a transfer student named Robert arrives and begins shaking everything up. Robert seems determined to dislike Georges, telling him that he knows his purity and perfection are only a mask and that he's going to rip away. Even so, Georges is determined to befriend him, forcing Robert to confront the things about his own past that Georges reminds him of.

I only bought this volume because I found volume 2 in a used bookstore clearance section - I didn't realize at the time that they were the first two volumes of an out-of-print 7-volume series. This could have been tragic if I'd read this first volume and loved it, but (thankfully) it was only so-so. 

This was melodramatic Catholic schoolboys shouting at each other and having emotions. I'm not sure why the author decided to set things at a Catholic all-boys school rather than just a regular all-boys school. Maybe for extra guilt plus the whole "purity" thing? From the look of things, it might even be set in an alternate universe - in the afterword, the author wrote "The common language spoken in the story world is (supposed to be) Esperanto." My guess is that the author wanted to avoid setting it in a real-world location so as to not have to worry about accuracy as much. 

This volume was pretty much nonstop drama. First, Georges met Robert, who seemed to view unmasking Georges' negative side as a personal challenge. Then another transfer student, the son of a duke, arrived, and Georges was made his "official friend" - yet another character determined to provoke Georges into revealing that he isn't as good and kind as he seems. Except he is - his "dark side" is just guilt over the lives his loan shark (?) father ruined. After that, it was back to Georges and Robert, but digging more into Robert's past, which seemed to involve a girl whose death he may have been responsible for and who Georges apparently resembles.

It wasn't boring, but it was a lot. And unfortunately the artwork sometimes made things more confusing than they needed to be. Georges' friend Henri looked an awful lot like Robert - there were a couple times when I thought Georges was walking with Robert when it was actually Henri, and the primary thing that helped me tell the two apart when they shared a scene together was their ties. Henri kept his neat, while Robert's was usually untied.

As far as DMP's "Yaoi Manga" line on the cover goes: If you're looking for steamy BL, you won't find it here. So far there's some tension between Robert and Georges, and Robert kissed him once (which both he and Georges later passed off as nothing). Unfortunately, I tend to prefer sweeter/more romantic BL, and Robert and Georges' interactions have been primarily angry due to whatever baggage Robert is carrying. We'll see if that improves or gets worse in volume 2.


The volume has a removable jacket. The cover underneath includes some extra artwork and a one-page extra comic in which one of Freddy's classmates teases him by pulling his hair up in pigtails while he's napping. There's also an 11-page preview of the next volume (which confusingly includes several panels from volume 1 - why??) and a 2-page afterword by the author that includes four character profiles. Georges' age at the start of the volume was apparently 14 while Robert's was 17, which honestly makes Robert look even more like a bully.

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