SOTUS Volume 1 Mixes Boys Love With College Hazing

SOTUS Volume 1 cover of Arthit with his arms folded while Kongpob stands behind him, their backs to each other.

There are different BL tales of love and adorable meet-cutes, but SOTUS Volume 1 takes a far more entertaining route. Enemies to partners have that additional delicious tension that sizzles on the page. Or maybe it’s just Arthit’s irritation. It’s not every day an underclassman says they’ll make you their wife. This series is hilarious as an increasingly shocked Arthit gets thrown for a loop by Kongpob’s unexpected responses. SOTUS Volume 1 packages a BL enemy-to-lovers senpai-kohai story that makes you anxious to see what happens next. 

SOTUS Volume 1, written by BitterSweet with art by Kei, translation by Leighann Harvey, and lettering by DK, also stands out as a Thai BL manga. Based on a Thai novel written by BitterSweet and serialized in English by Yen Press, there’s more good than bad. SOTUS is a tradition in Thai universities, where upper-level students haze the incoming class supposedly to teach them discipline and wisdom. The acronym stands for “seniority,” “order,” “tradition,” “unity,” and “soul.” Whether it’s helpful is debatable, but it is grueling. 

SOTUS Volume 1 Starts With a Shocking Proposal

Arthit is the head hazer for the engineering department, tasked with whipping the entering class into shape. Although he claims he does not like being cruel, Arthit does it with ease. He lectures the underclass of students and enforces physically taxing exercises. Their hazing looks like rigorous military training, with the group doing squats and running laps. The main characters meet when Kongpob—part of the new engineering class—offers comfort to a fellow student. Seeing that, Arthit zeroes in on him. 

After touting his gear on a necklace, a symbol only those worthy can carry, Arthit demands to know how Kongpob plans to get it. That’s when Kongpob drops the bomb that he’ll take it by making Arthit his wife because they’ll share property. Arthit’s shock turns to embarrassment when everyone around them oohs. This is one of the most disconcerting, comical, and unexpected meet-cutes I’ve ever read. But SOTUS Volume 1 does not leave it at that. Kongpob has plenty of surprises for Arthit.

Differing Points of View

SOTUS Volume 1 cover of Arthit with his arms folded while Kongpob stands behind him, their backs to each other.
SOTUS Volume 1 cover

SOTUS Volume 1 allows readers to see both perspectives. Plus the two main character’s learn to see from the other’s perspective a bit. Arthit soon fixates on Kongpob, but it’s not solely due to irritation. He’s trying to teach a larger lesson that Kongpob cannot see from his limited point of view. But Kongpob’s not the only person learning a valuable lesson. Arthit does as well. Though more extreme, it’s similar to The Dirty Dozen, in the goal of unity. The question is whether the ends justify the means. Using sanctioned bullying to unite a class does not make harassment okay.

Opposites Attract Entertainment With The Plot

Though Arthit is the senpai, he’s more like a person trying to appear gruff but is a softie on the inside. In contrast, Kongpob is forthright with his emotions. So from a maturity standpoint, Kongpob outranks Arthit. But that’s why they complement each other. As they chat, Arthit tries to find ways to insult and embarrass Kongpob. One disrespectful moment irritated me. Yet Kongpob handles it with calm. He says Arthit must like him because childish behavior is bullying the person you want. Given Arthit’s behavior, maybe he does not deserve Kongpob.

After plenty of back and forth between Arthit and Kongpob, the story raises the stakes. The pair engage in a bet. SOTUS Volume 1 sets this up for future volumes with precision, but I hope they move beyond the destructive potential of institutional hazing. Not every first encounter in a future relationship is positive. However, depending on SOTUS’s character development, Arthit and Kongpob’s relationship might end up toxic. 

There are hilarious moments in SOTUS Volume 1. Some people get under your skin, and it takes time to unpack the reason. Their relationship has cute moments. But the dynamic and actions of Arthit make you wonder if you should root for this pair’s relationship. SOTUS Volume 1 shows the potential to be either a raucous BL tale with loads of drama or a total train wreck. Either way, you can’t stop reading. There’s chemistry, but no passionate moments yet. Fingers crossed there are well-earned ones in later volumes.

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