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The Men Of Fence: Aiden, Bobby, Seiji & Nicholas

Fence is the title of a series created by writer C S Pacat and artist Johanna the Mad which features an ensemble cast of young men enrolled at Kings Row Boys School. As the title suggests, each of the main characters has an interest in the sport of fencing. Inspired by sports manga that Pacat discovered during her time living in Japan, the series is a blend of humor and romance with an appeal aimed at though not solely reserved for young adults.

Aiden Kane was born into a wealthy family and his father is a generous donor to the school. One might think this would create resentment among some of the Kings Row students — and to a very small degree it does make some students wonder if the donations led to Aiden’s placement on the fencing team. It doesn’t help that he shows up to practice only occasionally. However, Aiden’s stunning looks, extreme self confidence, and easy going nature make a potently attractive combination for much of the male student body. Despite having a love them and leave them reputation, there is no shortage of romantic prospects in his life. He literally has unofficial cheer leaders at his matches. Being dumped by Aiden happens so frequently that it’s led to a cliche phrase at school.

Belying his lack of disciplined training is a keen eye in spotting the shortcomings of his opponents that serves him well. When not fencing or being the school’s playboy, Aiden spends time with his roommate Harvard whom he’s known since they were five years old.

Bobby Rodriguez is a junior at Kings Row Boys School with a very positive and outgoing personality. While Bobby’s extroverted nature wins him friendships like the one with newly arrived Nicholas Cox who’s studying at the school thanks to a scholarship, it also shuts down around Bobby’s crush, fellow student Seiji Katayama. Seiji may be new to the school like Cox, but his confident and sometimes arrogant reputation as a highly ranked fencer precedes him. Bobby’s romantic interest in unrequited though. It speaks volumes to Bobby’s character that he doesn’t take sides between Nicholas and Seiji who have a tense relationship originating in a Connecticut regionals match six months earlier when Seiji defeated Nicholas.

Despite his shorter stature, Bobby has an interest in fencing and tries out for the school team. Bobby likes to express his gender fluid spirit through some of his clothing, hair styles and accessory choices. None of these expressions seems to register with other students let alone create difficulty as exemplified in a brief restroom scene in issue #3 and a locker room scene in the following issue. Bobby is roommates with Dante Rossi whom is very supportive of Bobby as noted by his attendance at Bobby’s matches.

Nicholas Cox and Seiji Katayama are the main protagonists. They first met six months before the story pick up at Kings Row at a match on the Connecticut Regionals circuit. Nicholas is immediately perceived by a few competing fencers as an untalented local from a “crappy club” and mocked for having worn gym shoes. Nicholas’ first elimination match is with Seiji against whom he doesn’t stand a chance. In fact, it’s a painful defeat made humiliating by Seiji’s condescension. Instead of shaming him from the sport, Nicholas uses the experience to continue. When the story picks up in present day, Nicholas has applied for and won a scholarship to Kings Row. Seiji’s plans to attend the elite Exton academy have somehow gone awry and he finds himself at the less prestigious Kings Row. Sparks fly when the two realize they’re roommates. Writer C S Pacat takes every opportunity to add some underlying sexual tension and have them explosively act either face to face or apart. This is a well known trope and for now Pacat successfully manages to keep this tension going in ways that engage readers. At some point a change however gradual that moves them together will happen for the relationship to pay off for readers.

In every way they are opposites which leads to tension. Where Seiji has had everything provided for him by his parents, Nicholas has had a hard scrabble life and has had to earn everything or do without. Nicholas’ mother is unmentioned and his father, Olympic fencing winner Robert Coste, doesn’t acknowledge Nicholas, if he’s even aware of him. Seiji’s father has been involved in his fencing training since an early age. Seiji is neat, organized, disciplined, and doesn’t show emotion while Nicholas is messy, needs to train more, and quick to anger especially when looked down on or mistreated.

Bobby Rodriguez first appears in issue #2. His crush on Seiji becomes apparent in the same issue. Aiden Kane first appears in issue #1 and his romantic interests become known in issue #3. Nicholas Cox and Seiji Katayama both appear first in issue #1. Romantic tension between them is an underlying theme throughout the volumes 1 and 2.

All characters created by C S Pacat and Johanna the Mad. Art by Johanna the Mad. From left to right: Nicholas, Seiji, Harvard, Aiden, Warren (possibly), Dante, and Bobby.

All rights reserved C S Pacat.

September 26, 2021
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