Love at Fourteen, translated from 14-sai no Koi, by Fuka Mizutani is currently running in Hakusensha’s Rakuen Le Paradis josei manga magazine. It is up to five volumes in Japan and still ongoing. We have gotten the first two volumes from Yen Press as of this post.
The Gist: The second year of junior high, when most students are in the throes of puberty and feeling the pangs of first love. It’s no different for Kanata Tanaka and Kazuki Yoshikawa, a girl and a boy who have been friends since elementary school. But even though Kanata and Kazuki are at the same point in life as their classmates, an air of adulthood sets the two apart. Kanata is taller and more attractive than the other girls, but the boys stay away because she seems too mature for them. Kazuki too stands out from the other boys, but the girls are wary of him because he seems like a player. And so, Kanata and Kazuki are thrown together in a charming, bittersweet tale of two very adult students falling in love like the teenagers they are.
The Review: This is a new josei series that Yen Press decided to take a shot on. I’m glad we’re getting more josei that isn’t smutty, but I’m kind of disappointed that it is about high school kids. Although, it’s slice of life and not supernatural, so I’ll take that.
Love at Fourteen looks really cute on the outside. The art is attractive and the concept seems like a winner. However, after forging through the first two novels I’m pretty much bored to tears. I thought so after the first book, but gave the second one a shot, and my opinion is not any different. The characters are cute in the sense of, “Aww look, they like each other, and they do goofy couple-y things.” But other than that, the personalities in this series are quite flat. We can all relate to the experiences the characters have, but the kids in the story are so dull I couldn’t care less what happens to them.
The stories are episodic in nature and revolve around the male and female protagonists and a couple classmates and teacher. Mizutani tends to focus on the actual events of what’s happening and not necessarily how it affects the characters. She addresses the awkwardness of first crushes, being more mature than your peers, liking the opposite sex when your peers are cootie-driven, hiding your relationship, forbidden teacher-student love, and same sex crushes. These are all events that young teenagers can relate to, but I’m kind of past wanting to read about fourteen year-olds in a josei series. I can read shoujo manga for that.
If I could I’d tell Mizutani, “The kids are cute, but your story is boring.”