Story/Art: Fuka Mizutani
Translation: Yoshito Hinton
Lettering: Lys Blakeslee
What They Say:
Middle schoolers Kanata Tanaka and Kazuki Yoshikawa are mature beyond their years, perfect model students admired from afar by classmates and teachers alike. But when school’s out, these two childhood friends can let loose as average fourteen-year-olds, fresh in the throes of puberty, adolescence…and the persistent, bittersweet pangs of first love.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I’m not one to shy away from saying I love shojo manga. I’ve read a lot of it from Arina Tanemura to CLAMP to Fruits Basket, Kare Kano, and more. I can say with certainty that Love at Fourteen is among the most adorable, which is paramount for shojo manga. Of course, it’s not the most important facet of shojo, but if I’m grinning because these kids are so adorable (I was and they are), then you’re successful in my eyes.
Aside from that very surface level reading, Love at Fourteen is a story of adolescence. For once, these two kids are able to explore the things like love together at a time when they are at their most confused. Their love works as a wonderful metaphor for this time of life where, in front of their peers, they maintain a different exterior than when they’re alone. When they’re alone, with the one they love the most, they’re able to be themselves. At some point between sixth grade and middle school, they changed from who they were to the mature and responsible looking people they are now. They’re afraid to show their real selves because that is the self they’re unsure of. They’re changing from boy to man and from girl to woman and there’s an idea in their head that adults are mature, as they act (they’re not) so they try to emulate that.
This façade can’t last forever though. Eventually, someone’s going to find out and it’s going to spread throughout the entire school. There was a near scare with Nagai, but it was quickly quelled by way of mutual secrets now being held. Kazuki knows about the music teacher making Nagai embarrassed, which was adorable and kind of the most weird thing I’ve read in shojo in a long time. From Kazuki’s point of view, something more was going on, but it was innocent. Ish.
What makes this comic such a draw is the little things. They go to a pool four hours away for the time they spend together, not to actually go to a pool. Kazuki carries Kanata for but a moment until her kimono hikes up and reveals her bare leg. He kisses her on the nape of her neck after she pulls up her hair up. They exchange ankle bracelets so they can have something subtle together. They put them on each other as they pull off their shoes and socks, seductively. But everything is innocent. There’s a lot of firsts and they’re still embarrassed by the look of each other’s bodies, like when Kanata reveals that she forgot her name patch in swimming class to Kazuki.
This was a near perfect first volume that established everything between these two lovebirds that a fan could want. It provided great characterization and interactions in all sorts of situations between both themselves and a bit with their friends. It also shows that Mizutani isn’t afraid to reveal their secret when Nagai stumbles upon them. I was hoping it would have revealed a little more, but I’m happy with how it turned out. It’ll run thin if it keeps being simply adorable, but I hardly think that will be the case.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: December 16, 2014