High school romance with a difference in Our Teachers are Dating!

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Most high school romance stories tend to focus on the relationships between students — or, occasionally, the potential for relationships between students and faculty and the surrounding concerns. But it’s relatively rare to see a story that focuses specifically on a relationship between two teachers — which is perhaps why Pikachi Ohi’s three-volume series Our Teachers are Dating! (aka Hayama-sensei and Terano-sensei are Dating!) has such a distinctly on-the-nose title.

On top of all that, Our Teachers are Dating! is a yuri title, too, bringing with it a pleasing degree of inclusivity, particularly with how unremarkable same-sex relationships appear to be within its narrative universe. No-one bats an eyelid over two women being together with one another — and indeed, any time “a relationship” is mentioned elsewhere in the manga, it almost seems like yuri relationships are the default. There’s no agonising over whether it’s “right” to feel things because “we’re both girls” or anything like that — this is a wholesome story of two people who got together and love one another.

Our Teachers are Dating!

The concept of Our Teachers are Dating! is that PE teacher Asuka Hayama and biology teacher Saki Terano have, after making googly eyes at one another for several years, finally started dating one another as the manga begins. In fact, as the story opens, they’ve only just got together with one another, and consequently neither of them quite knows how to handle things.

As noted, neither of them feel the slightest bit awkward about their relationship being a same-sex one; rather, their uneasiness stems from the fact that both of them lack experience in matters of the heart, and consequently both find themselves somewhat hesitant to push things too far, lest the other go running.

Interestingly, Hayama is the character most prone to this degree of overthinking; as a character that one student describes as an “iron fortress” at one point, she has a remarkably soft and gooey centre that sees her agonising over pretty much every interaction she has with Terano — to such a degree that she feels the need to ask permission for almost everything.

Terano, being on the whole a somewhat more easygoing person — though also at times prone to anxiety over her new relationship — recognises Hayama’s uneasiness, and eventually calls her out on it following a misunderstanding once they’ve been together a few weeks.

“Hayama-sensei,” says Terano. “You’re so mature, so no matter what you do, you always ask permission first. But if I don’t tell you what to do, will you make a move?”

“Terano-sensei,” Hayama replies, “I’m not mature at all. I’m terrified that if I do anything without checking first, then people will hate me for it. I don’t want anyone angry at me. I don’t want to fail. And if it’s someone I love, I get even more scared. I’m sorry for upsetting you.”

Our Teachers are Dating!

You’ll notice a few things about this exchange. Firstly, at this relatively early stage of their relationship, both Hayama and Terano are still addressing one another by their family names and the “-sensei” suffix, meaning they’re both still keeping a certain amount of respectful distance between one another. And secondly, in context, you’ll notice that this is the first time Hayama has said anything even close to “I love you” to Terano — indeed, that was the source of the whole misunderstanding in the first place.

The nice thing about Our Teachers Are Dating! is that it’s full of little moments like this — sequences that provide dramatic interest without being angsty and over-the-top about things. This isn’t a story of a doomed relationship, or how people really struggle to connect with one another — but rather, it’s a wholesome, pleasant and happy story of two people who wanted to get closer with one another, and who are gradually succeeding at doing so by both learning the best way to handle one another.

Relationship drama can be fun, of course, but it’s honestly rather refreshing to read something where the relationship between the core couple is just a given, and the interesting material comes from watching how that relationship unfolds and grows. As Hayama and Terano get to know one another better, so too do we, the audience get to understand them more intimately — it feels very much like we’re being included in the blossoming of something truly special, and that’s an exceedingly pleasant feeling.

Our Teachers are Dating!

This isn’t to say there’s no character development in Our Teachers are Dating!, of course. Quite the contrary, in fact; Hayama in particular feels like she particularly benefits from her time with Terano, because not only does it encourage her to be more honest about her feelings, it allows her to resolve some past issues that she has clearly been thinking about for quite some time.

“The truth is,” she says to Terano following a private, intimate kiss during their rounds of the school after the students have gone home, “I’ve always had regrets. All my classmates from when I was growing up fell in love, chased their dreams, shone… I was the only one still living in the past. And now here I am, right back at school. Being at school as a teacher is nothing like the school life I missed. But meeting you, Terano-sensei, it makes me glad that I’ve come back.”

“If you were a student now, Hayama-sensei,” enquires Terano, “what would you want to do?”

“Now?” she responds, looking at the school swimming pool they’ve reached on their inspection rounds. “I’d want to jump in the pool and swim.”

By herself, Hayama would never even consider jumping in the pool with her clothes on. But with Terano there, things are different. Very different.

“Her white coat fanned out,” Hayama muses to herself. “Like birds soaring into the sky. Taking my restrained adult heart… innocently, like a child, and embracing me like an adult.”

“I thought I could never act like a student,” she says after a passionate underwater kiss together. “Like a carefree kid ever again.”

“It’s not ‘like’,” says Terano. “Right now, we’re learning how to be young at heart. You and me, together.”

Our Teachers are Dating!

Terano, it’s fair to say, has no real problems with being young at heart — indeed, at various points in the manga she’s mistaken for Hayama’s student rather than her peer — but she recognises and empathises with how Hayama has seemingly had some difficulties in that regard ever since she was actually young. As such, there’s a real sense that Terano is gently taking Hayama by the hand and leading her out of the darkness of lonely adulthood and into a more vibrant world that they can share together; Hayama describes this in an early chapter as feeling like “with just one comment [from Terano], the world changes colour”.

With the first volume of Our Teachers are Dating! following the pair’s relationship over the course of about its first three months or so, you’d expect sex to enter the picture at some point — and indeed, the first volume’s final chapters are primarily concerned with this.

After the pair of them agree to make a mini-vacation of visiting a school trip site ahead of the actual students arriving, Terano becomes rather flustered after reading on the Internet that one’s lover generally expects sex on a first trip away together as a couple — and indeed, even more flustered when she realises that none of her underwear is either cute or sexy.

Interestingly, the pair of them get naked together before the prospect of actually doing anything sexual enters the picture; on their trip, they have the opportunity to spend time in an open-air bath together, and naturally this involves stripping off in front of one another. Hayama has seemingly no issue doing this — likely a side-effect of her being involved in sports and PE, where stripping off and changing clothes is simply part of the whole activity — but Terano is bashful, having never undressed in front of anyone before.

Hayama is the picture of cool composure right up until Terano takes her bra off, at which point she clumsily knocks a clothes basket over, claiming that she “got distracted”. This, naturally, doesn’t help Terano feel any less embarrassed about things — but the pair eventually get over it and manage to get into the bath together.

During their soak, they experience a certain degree of “skinship” with one another as they sit close to one another — though the perpetually uneasy Hayama is, of course, concerned that she might be making “too much” body-to-body contact with her lover. It’s clearly an intimate moment for them both, however, for this is also the time when both of them agree to stop calling one another surname-sensei and start addressing one another by their given names. This is always a big deal in any relationship depicted in Japanese media, as odd as it might seem to western societal conventions — so this is absolutely a turning point for the pair of them.

Our Teachers are Dating!

In keeping with how Our Teachers are Dating! does things relatively unconventionally, however, there’s no exaggerated, overblown reactions to the suggestion — instead, it’s a simple, mature conversation between adults, though Terano promptly ruins the moment for the audience with her excited inner monologue babbling away that “it’s like they’re girlfriends” accompanied by the hilariously understated author’s note that indeed, “they are girlfriends”. She also feels that it’s practical for the pair of them — if they’re addressing one another by first name, it’s less likely that people will mistake her for a teenager or Hayama’s student.

It seems that this is something Terano is actually kind of anxious about. Hayama recognises this and assures her that she sees her as an adult — emphasising her point with a passionate kiss that feels markedly different from any that have come previously. This breaks both of their barriers, and they both admit that they want to touch one another more, and to be physically intimate with one another.

And with that, the entire last chapter of Our Teachers are Dating! volume 1 is the pair of them making love for the first time. It’s a beautiful, romantic moment between the pair of them — and a sign that they’re both serious about one another. The scene is undoubtedly erotic, but not fetishised or overly explicit; it’s simply a depiction of how much Terano and Hayama have come to mean to one another, and an acknowledgement that any relationship between mature, consenting adults is going to progress to physical intimacy at one point or another.

It’ll be interesting to see where the story goes from here. With a story like this, there’s always the concern that keeping things too lovey-dovey between the main characters means there’s no scope for drama or development — but Our Teachers are Dating! honestly doesn’t seem like the sort of series that’s likely to have major upsets between the pair of them.

Our Teachers are Dating!

Rather, I suspect what we’re likely to see in the subsequent three volumes of Our Teachers are Dating! is a deepening of the relationship between the pair of them — and perhaps an exploration of how they can help one another with what they perceive their own “weaknesses” to be. We’ve already seen a hint of this in the first volume — and I’m sure there’s plenty more we don’t know about Terano-sensei and Hayama-sensei as yet.

For now, though, the first volume of Our Teachers are Dating! is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from the title and cover: it’s a light-hearted (though not explicitly comedic) romance story between two young women, with a gentle sense of acceptance and inclusivity to it all. The way the core same-sex relationship is presented as something normal and natural rather than something remarkable to point and stare at is especially worthy of note — as is the way in which every other character in the narrative is extremely supportive — and to be honest, the lack of overblown drama is quite refreshing compared to some other yuri stories out there!

So here’s to Terano and Hayama then — our teachers are dating, and we couldn’t be happier about it.

Our Teachers are Dating! volume 1 is available in paperback now from Amazon. Digital versions and alternative retailers can be found on Seven Seas’ website.

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Pete Davison
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