Kanata Tanaka and Kazuki Yoshikawa are very grown-up for middle schoolers. Between Kanata’s womanly grace and Kazuki’s sophisticated manliness, the rest of Class 2-B is awed – and a little intimidated – by their maturity, seriousness, and good grades.
But Kanata and Kazuki really don’t feel mature at all, and they meet secretly to goof off and blow off steam – but during their second year of middle school, they start dating, and the people around them are experiencing their own awkward, painful love stories as well.
Love at Fourteen has become one of my favorite manga series about first love. Though quite a lot actually happens in each volume, the pace of the manga is so calm it feels almost leisurely, which is perfect for a manga about the daily life of a couple experiencing their first love.
As with previous volumes, Kanata and Kazuki’s relationship is still precious and the absolute best thing about the manga. At one point, Kazuki faces attempted humiliation at the hands of a girl who has a crush on Kanata, but he faces that potentially mortifying experience with grace, and he never tells Kanata what happened — because he wants Kanata to remain friends with the girl. It’s a touching plotline and shows not only Kazuki’s kindness but also his faith in Kanata’s affection for him.
However, I’m starting to worry that this series is moving in the direction of “problematic favorites.” In this volume, I was a little bothered by the amount of page time spent on the fourteen-year-old students’ crushes on their teachers. These number, as far as I can remember: two boys with a crush on the same music teacher, a transfer student with a crush on an office worker lady he sees around town, and a girl with a crush on the homeroom teacher.
This hasn’t bothered me in previous volumes — almost all of the crushes were introduced in previous volumes — but it’s ramped up significantly in a way that’s getting a little weird and squicky. Especially squicky and weird is the relationship between the music teacher and one of the boys who has a crush on her. She’s very aware of his crush and exploits that crush in a manner that’s really uncomfortable to read from the point of view of an adult who is aware that the boy is very much still a child.
At this point in the manga, though, there’s little about the possible potential resolution of nearly any of the multiple students-crushing-on-adults plotlines. While one flash-forward brings one of the plotlines to a conclusion, most of them are still open, which is great in terms of continuing the plot in future volumes. My hope is that the plot arcs will bring students closer to others their own age rather than continuing to pine for people beyond their reach.
As I mentioned in my review of Volume 4, the art of this series is a little on the side of unremarkable. In the grand scale of shoujo romance manga art, it’s incredibly simple, fairly proportionate, and lacks a lot of the intricacy that hallmarks the genre.
But because this is a straightforward slice-of-life series, the style works. It’s not an exceptionally “busy” style, which makes the eye of the reader glide through the pages with ease.
Despite the squickiness of this volume, I would still recommend Love at Fourteen to romance manga readers looking for a heartwarming first-love story. This series handles many different kinds of first love with a degree of seriousness and respect that many other series lack, making it a standout among romance manga for me.
Story: 4 out of 5 stars
Art: 3 out of 5 stars
Overall: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Feliza Casano edits and writes for all sections of the site. She also was in love at fourteen, and it didn’t go NEARLY this well. You can find more of her work on her website at felizacasano.com and follow her on Twitter @FelizaCasano.