Viz Media’s Shojo Beat imprint is debuting a new series this week: Aruko and Wataru Hinekure’s My Love Mix-Up! It’s a romantic comedy starring three high schoolers (Aoki, Ida, and Hashimoto) with various degrees of romantic affection for each other. They find themselves struggling with both their real attractions and their perceived ones as misunderstandings sprout new genuine feelings. Does the manga get off to a good start with Vol. 1?
The central figure in this volume’s love mix-ups is Aoki, and he’s a fantastic protagonist. His personality is multifaceted and we get a great look at how he reacts under varying levels of pressure and around different people. His demeanor with Hashimoto, for instance, is very sweet and unassuming. He largely lets her determine the flow of conversation and never responds assertively. With Ida, meanwhile, he’s much more loud and prone to snapping. He does so primarily to push Ida away, whereas with Hashimoto he encourages her friendship. While these two communication styles differ, they share a common purpose: obscuring his true feelings about the other person.
Speaking of feelings, the renderings of body language throughout are excellent. The dimensions of Aoki’s personality are made all the more evident in the way that he seldom seems to speak without having some visual focus on what he’s doing physically. In vulnerable scenes where Ida catches him off guard he frequently brings a hand up to his face, whether against his mouth or over his forehead. In more boisterous moments however he uses his full arms to to gesture dramatically, often to humorous effect. Notably, the main examples of his arms just staying flat by his sides are when he’s feeling contemplative or shy and nervous. This attention to detail extends to the rest of the characters, and there’s never a moment where their posture seems incidental or ill-thought-out.
The rest of the art impresses as well. Aruko establishes a soft aesthetic with thin, fluid line-work and an abundance of white and light gray tones. The use of screen tones throughout also contributes to the mood, with a variety of patterns and line types to reflect the nuances of comedy, angst, and earnest teenage love. Plus, the characters’ faces are just as emotive as the rest of their bodies. Aruko paces out character interactions in such a way that subtle but key shifts in expressions are emphasized. Because of this, even the other characters besides Aoki are well-developed despite not driving the drama to the same extent he does.
The dialogue and narration throughout are just as nuanced as the artwork. Beyond the emotional turmoil inherent to just being a teenager, Aoki must contend with the sort of doubts that arise from new, potentially gay desires. From hesitancy to anger to hyper-sensitivity and joy, there’s a full range of disparate and often simultaneous emotions at play. Much of the writing’s success also comes down to the pacing and scene transitions. No scenes feel unnecessary to the character development or inadequate in their length and content. In terms of pure storytelling, this is a very polished comic.
On the whole, My Love Mix-Up! takes a charming premise with lots of potential and utilizes that potential to the utmost degree. The characters are instantly lovable and multifaceted thanks to the stellar pacing and use of body language throughout. The soft aesthetic is pleasing to look at and the subject matter is deftly handled, resulting in a final product that is both funny and earnest in its emotional resonance.
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