"The Imperial Army’s Love Academy" was very disappointing.  In keeping with Mizukami’s general style, this is a very smutty piece of hard shota, set within an historical context.  All of this is well and good if that’s what you’re looking for, and Mizukami is a champion at it.  Where Love Academy breaks down, however, is its attempt to have a plot.  What we have here is a threadbare framework of what attempts to be story, character, and relationships, attempting to support a porno, by an artist who is very good at the porno thing. 

The arc of the “romance” at work here is definitely cringeworthy, and this is by yaoi standards.  Unhealthy relationships are nothing new, unexpected, or even necessarily objectionable in our genre, but this one really takes the cake.  We watch an adult, Onizuka, not only prey relentlessly on a child in a sexual sense, but also break him down on a personal, petty level.  The child, Yamato, becomes more and more isolated until rather abruptly coming to “love” Onizuka.  Handled more competently this could make for an interesting psychological story, but it’s all played totally genuine and without nuance, so the resulting relationship seems tacked on, absurd, and boring.  In addition, it’s a bit offensive the way Yamato’s pain seems to dry up suddenly along with the last of his personal boundaries and the self respect he has doggedly clung to throughout the story.  Again, I realize this is nothing at all unusual, but in the case of Love Academy, this trope is especially poorly handled. 

Love Academy essentially opens with our hero Yamato, an underdeveloped teenager, being raped by his adult superior officer in a pitch black room.  This is the first of several highly explicit and well rendered sex scenes, which are hot despite censorship.  This is where Mizukami Sensei really shines; In the depiction of young boys being brutalized.  Their style is very unique and quite lovely, one can tell Mizukami’s work immediately.  The characters have interesting features, though there is one mustache that needs to be killed with fire, and if you look at some crowd scenes everyone’s identical.  This is not the only time Mizukami has used a vaguely period military setting. The world building in this book is generally unsuccessful, though the uniforms are very nicely rendered, as are the human forms in general, and the toning is great.  Visually this is a very good work.

Overall I can’t recommend The Imperial Army’s Love Academy.  Yaoi fans have high levels of patience for ridiculous relationships and terrible plots, but in the case of this book the “story” is actually bad enough to negate the good things about it.

Review By: Dot Ringo

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