Monday, September 30, 2019

Missed It Monday - Love at Fourteen volume 1 (Manga Review)

two teens, a boy and girl, sit on desks in school with a blue sky behind them
Missed It Monday is the ongoing column where I review anime and manga I missed when they first came out.

Love at Fourteen vol. 1 - 7.5/10

Love at Fourteen volume 1 (Yen Press) was a pleasant surprise, different than I expected, and with room to keep developing. I went in expecting a serious, dramatic, brooding take on young people in love. Instead, it's a heartwarming, cute, light, funny, sweet, and gentle romance between two people whose love is moving from friendship to romantic.

The series introduces us to two middle-schoolers, Kanata and Kazuki, who are both tall and "mature" for their ages. At least that's what their classmates think. In truth, they're just kids who've been friends forever, and enjoy spending time goofing off in endlessly silly ways. They only pretend in school to be the "cool" mature types because that's what the rest of the kids expect from them.

Except, they really are growing up. In the course of pretending to be mature, they actually do mature, and what was once a fun, non-romantic friendship suddenly becomes more. In Love at Fourteen volume 1, we are treated to their first kiss, and the beginnings of their dating relationship.

At this point they are keeping their relationship secret from their school mates which means they can't break character or even have much contact with each other during school. So the volume is filled with stolen glances and moments throughout the school day as well as some dates after school (and plenty of goofing around still).

The entire volume was so unexpectedly sweet and kind it surprised me. Maybe others have gone into this series knowing that it would be so light and simple, but I had no idea. I am greatly relieved that it treats its young people with such delicacy. Both leads feel like real kids, but we're also removed from some of the intense drama that comes with middle-school age. This isn't a glaring, critical look at being fourteen. Instead, it highlights those occasional moments when being fourteen places one in the perfect state between childhood and adulthood, when love can be simple, and perfect, and uncomplicated.

Both characters are likable, they treat each other well, they aren't stuck perseverating on every little detail of every little interaction. They actually communicate with each other. And maybe, most importantly, they act on their romantic impulses. This isn't a manga about endless (and needless) restraint. It actually depicts middle school students with the urges and interest in their crushes that exist. However, unlike the also wonderful "O Maidens in Your Savage Season" which shows us the inner turmoil of that exploration, Love at Fourteen displays the simple joys that romantic love and first kisses can bring. In some ways, it's the perfect opposite, and equally worth reading.

The art is very simple, but that's okay. It works for the feel of the story. We also get the sense in volume 1 that this is just the beginning. I think what I'm most excited for is to watch these two as they grow up, where will they be at 15, 16, 17? But I also love that what we get now isn't heavy or complex or dramatic. This is a feel good manga. Sometimes we need that. It gets a strong 7.5/10 with hope that it will both keep it up and expand as the series continues.


Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

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