SOTUS Vol. 1 Review – A Stickler Senpai And A Cheeky Kouhai
Title: SOTUS Vol. 1
Author: BitterSweet, Kei
Release Date: February 21, 2023
Publisher: Yen Press
SOTUS Vol. 1 is a comics adaptation of a BL story created as a novel by Thai writer Bittersweet. The series also received a popular drama adaptation in 2016 and was highly regarded by Thai television awards. It tells the story of two engineering students from different years and how their relationship develops into trust and hints at romance.
It all starts horribly, though. Arthit is the leader of a group of senpais who enforce a long-standing tradition called SOTUS. To guarantee they’re worthy of graduating, they force them to deal with trials meant to improve their unity, respect for seniors, and other values. The strictness of this system handled by the wrong people would be the same as institutionalized bullying.
While the newcomers are afraid of these law-enforcing upperclassmen, a young man called Kongpob acts nonchalantly during their first meeting. For Arthit, this attitude means trouble, meaning he needs to discipline him. However, his methods don’t work with this newcomer, who even dares say he’d make Arthit his wife to graduate.
This unexpected conversation leads the two to be self-aware around each other. Arthit sees Kongpob as a wild beast he needs to do his best to tame, lest his actions could permanently ruin the new class. Meanwhile, Kongpob isn’t quite as hardheaded but someone who wouldn’t just obey quietly. He’s got a critical mind, and he needs to understand why the SOTUS teachings and these bullying-like trials are that way.
The constant presence of each other molds their relationship with the engineering course and campus life. Arthit is constantly thinking about this troublesome, cheeky kouhai of his and trying to get back at the humiliation he faced (while keeping everything orderly). Meanwhile, Kongpob hints at having known Arthit before, and he’s seriously trying to understand his actions to make a moderate evaluation of SOTUS.
SOTUS Vol. 1 is all about the slow process of change caused by having each other around. However, as a love story, it’s way too bland and fails to convince those two have much chemistry together. Their feelings are far from reaching the surface, and it feels more like two stubborn guys who can’t admit they consider the other a dear friend than something romantic so far.
Maybe the next volume will change this, as the story does hint that there’s more to it behind Kongpob’s backstory. Their relationship also grew enough that it could eventually lead to romance, but it’s crawling in this department to the point it may be unconvincing to some readers. Even while alternating between the two protagonists, it never feels like we get to see deep inside them, their feelings a little too subtle, to hint at them also unaware if this could be romance or not.
SOTUS Vol. 1 establishes the relationship between two guys whose positions leads them to rivalry but who get to trust each other as they spend more time together. The story so far isn’t enough to make it a compelling BL, but what it offers may be the seeds of potential romance that could bloom in the future.
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