Story/Art: Fuka Mizutani
Translation: Sheldon Drzka
Lettering: Lys Blakeslee
What They Say:
Kanata and Kazuki may have everyone fooled with their convincingly mature act, but there’s no denying that they are still in middle school. Between the season’s first snow and a rogue fire alarm, many things can happen to perilous young love. When challenging situations get the best of them and emotions get messy, will it be possible to continue navigating the turning points of their lives together?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It’s been nine volumes, but it maybe just occurred to me how ridiculous the premise of Kazuki and Kanata having these “serious,” “mature” personas really is. It’s an almost perfect encapsulation of the kind of juvenile teenage behavior you would expect of someone achieving above all of their peers.
But once the veil is lifted off of Kanata and Kazuki—as Kazuki reveals that his dad’s getting a reassignment to Nagasaki—it becomes much more tragic what they’re doing outwardly toward their classmates. Among their same-gender peers, they’re allowed to lower that guard a little more. But for the whole classroom, they put up this front because they are perceived as mature by their peers, so they must live up to that label. It’s a false proposition.
The little things like both of them being a little sillier than they let off, or that Kanata likes a manga called Magical Nina—a manga for even younger girls that’s probably a reference to something else I’m not familiar with—are not things that they’re allowing themselves to reveal to the rest of their classmates because it doesn’t match up with that mature label. Just let them be kids. Let them be themselves. They feel much better after doing so. But I also understand the need or desire to put up a face of someone else, because of outside pressure or a misplaced sense of self-loathing. They’re both worth more than they realize as they are.
The bulk of the story itself is Kanata and Kazuki working through all these emotions. Of trying to keep face, of trying to get together just so they can have a moment of levity, of trying to comprehend the fact that they may be separated for the foreseeable future because of Kazuki’s dad’s reassignment.
The other stories are the short bit with Ichinose and the woman on the bus. It seems their interest is mutual, if very confusing. She’s clearly older, and he’s clearly just got a crush on an attractive woman. Given how far Nagai and Hinohara have gone, I’m hopeful this doesn’t cross the line as well. But given that both exist, my expectations are low as I try to only focus on Kazuki and Kanata and pretty much nothing else in this manga.
Speaking of Nagai and Hinohara, they went to a concert together over Christmas. The hurried and almost panicked way she went about trying to find someone else to go with the both of them before even asking Nagai is a good sign, since she at least realizes the problematic nature of her affection. He did kiss her neck after the show, which is uh not the right direction for this relationship. But it is at least the younger, stupider participant in this taking the initiative, and Hinohara has shown no willingness to go further than that, or even that far. She should step it back a few (dozen??) pegs, but alas.
Love at Fourteen still has enough going in the Kanata-Kazuki pair that I still very much love this manga, but with each passing volume, it gets closer and closer to cringe with its age-gap romances. I wish it would just stop, so Kazuki and Kanata can be the sole focus—something like My Love Story largely did that with Takeo and Yamato, for example.
Despite these misgivings though, and they are large misgivings, it remains one of my favorite shojo love story-ish manga that I’ve read. That’s just how strong the Kanata and Kazuki story is.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: September 24, 2019