Monday, November 11, 2019

Missed it Monday - Love at Fourteen Volume 3 (Manga Review)

A male and female student in the classroom, buy the window, laughing as they talk to each other
Missed it Monday is the column where I review manga and anime that I didn't read/watch when they first came out.

Love at Fourteen vol. 3 - 8/10

In Love at Fourteen vol. 3 (Yen Press), we catch up with Kanata and Kazuki, our young love-birds, and the "most mature" two people in their school, whom everyone looks up to. With the dance, festival, and choral competition coming up, their classmates are showing frayed nerves. Things come to a head when there is a fight between a guy and girl in the classroom.

Kanata and Kazuki have been working hard to keep tension down, but their attempt to end this particular fight ends badly when they end up in a shouting match with each other in front of all their classmates. Worried that they've hurt their fledgling relationship, but unsure how to apologize, they keep missing opportunities to set things right.

Sensing the time is right, Shiki makes her move on Kanata, trying to steal her away from Kazuki. Needless to say, it doesn't work, and Kanata and Kazuki end up patching things up. The couple panels where they do are so cutely written and drawn, I almost couldn't take it.

At the same time, things heat up between Nagai and the choral teacher. But not necessarily in the way we might expect. Nagai begins pushing away, particularly when his stability is tested in seeing Kanata and Kazuki's relationship hit the rocks.

From there, another student attempts to blackmail Nagai and a photo of him and the teacher makes its way to the principal. I won't spoil how the teacher handles it, but it's perfectly done. I still really really have problems with a teacher/student relationship, but there is an end side story which gives a little more background on her, and while not fully justifying it in any way, at least makes her a more complete character.

That's one of many good things about this volume. We keep a strong focus on our main couple, introducing real teenage drama (not overly dramatic - but authentic) but we also get lots of growing insight into the side characters including Nagai and Shiki. I love the balance.

Some stories neglect their side characters completely and they end up as just wooden props, others are so focused on an ensemble cast that they lose sight of the driving force of the main characters' story. But Love at Fourteen continues to be well balanced and the side stories are just sufficiently integrated enough with the main characters' as to enhance the whole package.

The art is very simple and soft and perfect for the timeless feel of the story. It's nothing special, but complements it well. You probably won't buy this series for the art, but that's okay. The writing is worth it.

Volume 3 of Love at Fourteen is maybe the strongest overall yet. I'm still super excited for this series.  It gets a strong 8/10.

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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