Koume Keito has a special place in my pantheon of hentai mangaka for a certain short, full-color manga he created for a 2006 issue of Comic Megastore about ancient Egyptian-styled cat girls that were very influential in my early explorations of the medium. In more mainstream circles, Koume-sensei is known for drawing the manga adaptation of Spice and Wolf. So naturally I jumped at the chance to review School Love Net, a 146-page, full color manga by the master himself and published in English, fully uncensored by FAKKU.
The premise of School Love Net is a virtual reality game so advanced and so realistic, you can feel everything that happens to you as if you’re really there. Of course, that means the best and most popular application of the technology is banging. It’s the kind of hentai premise that’s a fun pornographic fantasy, while at the same time being down-to-earth enough that you suspend your disbelief and get into it. I’ve got a VR headset. Maybe someday down the line, I actually could use it to log into a School Love Net type thing.
Most of the manga’s 19 chapters are about Shizu, our heroine, and Shouta, our male lead. There’s not much I can say about them other than they’re attractive and good at sex, or at least good at playing the sex game the manga is about. School Love Net doesn’t spend more than a single page on any kind of story or characterization that isn’t in some way pornographic. It’s here to show you sex and sex is what you get.
Koume-sensei himself even admits in his afterword that he couldn’t spend as much time fleshing out characters as he would have liked, and it shows. Shizu and Shouta have no distinct characteristics, and I couldn’t tell you the name of a single other character. The designs of the side characters are also pretty samey and feel like a missed opportunity in this story about the infinite sexual potential of VR. We don’t even get an animal ear girl!
That said, if you don’t need characterization to get off, or are here for the art more than the writing, School Love Net does not disappoint. Koume-sensei’s legendary artistic prowess is on full display in page after page of intensely erotic scenarios. We see sloppy orgies filled with what seems like dozens of participants. We see intimate one-on-one love-making scenes between Shizu and Shouta. And we certainly don’t miss the opportunity to get a little exotic.
One of the reasons I enjoy hentai is that in addition to, as all pornography does, presenting a fantasy you’re unlikely to experience yourself, hentai as a drawn medium brings you completely outlandish sexual experiences that push into the realm of the impossible. School Love Net explores the sexually impossible and the impossibly sexual opportunities of a virtual world and in doing so offers up some material catering to very specific fetishes.
Glitches in the game lead to a “stuck in wall” scenario where the female players find themselves immobilized and available for use by their peers. A new player joining the game and creating her avatar gives us the chance to play with adjustable breast and labia sizes. A special skill card even gives Shouta incredible sexual powers like turning his penis into an enormous, prehensile dick-tentacle; and then of course the ability to duplicate himself so we get a full-on tentacle-dick party.
The schoolgirl uniform fetish is an ever-present one as you might have guessed from the title, and School Love Net pushes the setting a bit to include a commuting-to-school train molesting scene. But it doesn’t let the school setting box it in, and we somehow find ourselves at a hot springs and even banging inside a Mesoamerican pyramid.
Despite its weak story, School Love Net does feature a conflict and a climax (that actually spawns from Shouta and Shizu engaging in some impregnation and birth play, to add to the list of fetishes), as well as a sweet vanilla ending that brings some closure to the characters we never really got to know. It’s good.
I’m also going to underline what a fantastic job FAKKU did on the translation and presentation of this English release. The dialogue flows well and captures the spicy, erotic flavor you want in a hentai manga. But most impressively, you won’t see a lick of Japanese text on any page in the entire book. As someone who’s done a lot of manga fan translations, I have a unique appreciation for what it means that every last squishy sound effect in School Love Net has been lovingly reinserted in stylized, colored, typeset English (with hearts included where appropriate!).
In short, School Love Net is an artistic triumph, whose 146 glossy paper pages make for a great coffee table book and scintillating conversation piece. It may be light on story and characterization, but the wide selection of fetishes on display and the full use of a virtual world setting that lets readers suspend their disbelief and engage with the material means that superior visuals overcome the limitations of the writing.
I heartily recommend the work, as I look longingly over at my VR headset, wondering just what debauchery the future might hold.