Manga Monday, 2016 Reads: Manga, Part IV

At last we’re at the end of my current on-going series for 2016 (or, at least the ones in progress now).  Just two last series to cover today.  After this I’ll get back to my regular Manga Monday posts, though the format will be a little different.  😀

But first…

Love at Fourteen

Love At FourteenWritten and illustrated by Fuka Mizutani, the series Love at Fourteen is the newest of my series starts, in that I’ve only read one volume so far even though Yen Press is caught up with the Japanese releases.  I’m not sure if it is still on-going, though the description on volume five sounds like it is.  As a side note, this is also the only series I’m currently reading that seems to not have a Wikipedia page yet.

Love at Fourteen is a shojo romance between 14-year-olds Kazuki and Kanata who are regarded as model students at school.  But most people don’t know that they are childhood friends who cherish the time they are away from the “stage” of school when they can relax around one another and be themselves.  But that changes as they start their second year of middle school and finally get to share a class which becomes the catalyst for them realizing that maybe what they feel for each other is more than just friendship.

The first volume is a sweet, slow-moving piece that goes beyond just setting up the romance to give a tender, realistic exploration of two kids who are becoming aware of the differences in how others perceive them and how they perceive themselves.  As they struggle between being “mature” and still wanting to be kids, they also try to figure out just which is their real selves, and who they want to be.

It is an enjoyable, if somewhat mellow series.  There isn’t heavy drama or emotional pull, and nothing makes it particularly stand out from other series so are, but it is still a pleasant read and I will be picking up future volumes.

The first five volumes of Love at Fourteen are available now from Yen Press in paperback and eBook formats.

My Little Monster

My Little MonsterRobico’s shojo romance My Little Monster is a twelve volume series, plus one special, that ran in Japan from 2008 to 2013.  Considered a romantic comedy, the story focuses on the relationship that develops between straight-laced Shizuku Mizutani and her rarely in school classmate Haru Yoshida.

I’ve read all but the last volume of this series and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.  I would disagree with it being a “comedy” though.  It does have some funny moments, but overall I found it to be much more dramatic and emotional.  The POV mostly stays with Mizutani, who has a well-earned reputation for being “emotionless” because of her laser point focus on studying, to the point she has almost no social experience with her peers, struggles to talk to her equally workaholic mother out of fears of being a bother, and is blunt to the point of being tactless at times. 

As one might expect with the setup, her meeting Haru is the start of her life changing.  Haru is seemingly naïve and innocent, but he has a violent temper, a tendency to overreact to others reactions to him, and seems to have a healthy sexual appetite from his regular remarks to Mizutani. 

Mizutani bringing him print-outs from school makes him declare her his friend and he begins attending school again, but still struggles relating to others.  In a way it’s almost odd that two people who people who suck so bad at dealing with people end up helping each other reacclimate to society and make friends who are flexible enough to deal with their quirky natures. 

I really like Mizutani’s character, who is just on this side of avoiding being out-right bitchy.  Robico does a great job of showing that she really isn’t a bad person, she just has no clue how bad some things she says sounds and as she learns to read and understand others, she does work on toning it down while retaining her sense of self.  Her dedication to her goals is admirable, even as she comes to realize that it is okay to play and have fun too. 

Haru is a decent match for her, though I do find his temper concerning.  Early in the series he harms Mizutani because of his blind raging, and at times he comes across as extremely manipulative.  For me, they are signs of a likely abusive relationship in the future, though Mizutani makes it clear she won’t put up with a lot of that sort of crap.  He does improve over the course of the series as well, which is good.

I also like that Mizutani isn’t “pretty” and never undergoes some sort of transformation into a gorgeous girl who has guys flocking at her feet.  She isn’t bad looking or anything, just, well ordinary.  A regular, ordinary girl.  The only real competitor for her affections doesn’t even find her remotely attractive at first; it’s only after he gets to know her that his feelings change, which is also a nice touch.

I look forward to reading the final volume and the special, which apparently includes some follow-up on the side characters and other extra content.

All twelve volumes of My Little Monster are available from Kodansha in paperback and eBook formats, as well as via comiXology.  The special volume will be released March 29th.