Saturday, March 5, 2022

Love at Fourteen volume 11 (manga review)

This manga cover shows a teen boy and girl in a field
If you've read any of my prior reviews of "Love at Fourteen" volumes, this one will sound awfully familiar. Unfortunately "Love at Fourteen" volume 11 (by Fuka Mizutani, published by Yen Press) exhibits the same juxtaposition of a truly wonderful main couple with absolutely morally and ethically fraught romantic relationships between adults and children. In short, if you aren't already committed to seeing this series through (and I've toyed with stopping multiple times, but I'm a "completist") then don't bother starting now.
    Kazuki and Kanata are nearing the end of their middle school life together with Kazuki set to move away soon. This volume focuses mostly around a class ski trip. What is beautiful about this volume is the clear eyed, sweet, and very well written relationship growth between Kazuki and Kanata. Although this volume, like many before it, keeps minimizing our time with the main couple in favor of the side couples, what it did offer with Kazuki and Kanata is some of my favorite writing in the series. I don't want to spoil anything, because it comes late in the volume, and it's just a really unique thing to see in a manga, or most stories about middle-schoolers.
    But that hardly makes up for this volume's faults (which mirror the series' faults). And that is we have two adults who are in seriously flirtatious situations with middle school students. These are children. And under no condition should adults even take a first step in that direction with children. This series does nothing to comment critically on that, and instead, seems to try and find beauty in these burgeoning relationships. I'm not okay with that at all. And I keep seriously thinking about stopping the series. I'm not proud of myself that I haven't. I keep thinking each volume might be the last. It's not a good excuse. I shouldn't give this author any more of my money, no matter how good the main couple's story and writing is.
    In addition to the two side couples that are an adult and 14-year-old, there is a third adult, the school nurse who has an interesting dynamic with another teen. There is a truly, and uncharacteristically, aggressive scene in this that left me quite uncomfortable. It's played off as a type of defensiveness but it reads as manipulative and emotionally unstable by the adult. Yuck. It then also positions the child to try and be this adult's "savior." Double yuck.
    There just seems to be so many manga series about May/December (to use an awful euphemism for predatory) adult/child relationships. I think "Love at Fourteen" is one of the most dangerous because the whole series is supposed to have this gentle, wistful tone which tends to minimize the issue here. An issue which the series NEVER critically comments on. This isn't a series that warns against the dangers of this type of relationship. It's not even a series that presents any hint of danger for anyone involved in these types of relationships. It's like it is normalizing it. 
    The only time I have ever read a manga about a teen/adult relationship that was remotely appropriate in how it was handled and commented on was "After the Rain" in which the adult recognized what was going on, set clear boundaries, and made it his responsibility to push her back towards being a teen and living the life she was supposed to lead. He actually helped her heal the issues that drove her to crush on him. He acted like a responsible adult. While that series is certainly not criticism free, it was a really solid attempt at exploring a young woman with a crush on an older man and how the man could actually be a decent human being and help the child stay a child.
    In "Love at Fourteen" we have two, and maybe three, predatory adult women who are actively flirting with 14 year-olds. And it's not even a game to them or something darker or more malevolent. They are clearly depicted as being romantically interested in these children. NOT OKAY EVER!
    So basically, while the mangaka has some clear writing skill, she is using it for some not good storylines. If this series would just stick solely to the main couple, Kanata and Kazuki (both teens), it would be a brilliant, beautiful series. But volume 11 typifies and advances all the problems in this series. 


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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