The Heart of Thomas, a graphic novel written and beautifully illustrated by Moto Hagio, the ‘founding mother’ of shôjo manga, is a fast, albeit complex read. It takes place in “a boys’ boarding school in Germany ... in the mid-20th Century. One winter day, fourteen-year old Thomas Werner falls from a lonely pedestrian overpass to his death, immediately after mailing a single, brief letter to another boy (Juli) at the school.” A new student, Erich, who is an exact look-alike of the dead boy, arrives at the school and creates emotional turmoil. This is a story of young boy crushes in an all male setting. Only kisses are exchanged—no graphic sexual scenes. Love is depicted as spiritual rather than physical.

The graphics themselves are masterful, especially the chapter pages. The boy characters, except for the dark-haired Juli, all seem to look alike with their light curly hair, their round, 70ish eyes and feminine features—or should I say, angelic features? This can be problematic unless you focus on the author’s theme of spiritual love that transcends all physical attributes. This story could easily be rewritten using an all female cast.

A thought-provoking and enjoyable read for manga and traditional readers alike!