A new volume of Aruko and Wataru Hinekure’s My Love Mix-Up! is out this week, and it’s a must read for me. The series’ first two volumes were some of the most fun I’ve had with romcom comics in recent memory, setting my expectations very high. Does this latest installment manage to meet that same standard?
So what’s it about?
Courtesy of Viz Media, here’s the official synopsis for Vol. 3:
Aoki has a crush on Ida, a boy in his class. Ida has learned from Akkun the story behind Hashimoto’s eraser—that Aoki told Ida he liked him to protect Hashimoto’s secret crush. The only trouble is that Aoki really does like Ida, so now Aoki has to confess his love to Ida all over again!
Stylistic versatility and visual comedy
As with the series’ previous volumes, the visual comedy here is stellar. Aruko’s linework varies dramatically in weight, sharpness, and general style, particularly where facial expressions are concerned. Aoki and co. can gain or lose entire facial features across the course of a page depending on what sort of gag is being used. Heartstruck eyes become reflective pools of water, mouths contort into pumpkin shapes, and Aoki often looks like the spitting image of Munch’s The Scream. Characters’ interactions are incredibly fun to watch unfold as there’s no limit to how far the anatomy’s expressiveness will go to sell a joke.
It’s also worth noting that Aruko’s screen tone use and page composition choices remain top-notch. The volume’s first half takes place at a skiing camp, and the contrast between the paper white snowy hills and the lovely dark patterned skies above them is exquisite. Aruko also knows exactly how to lead a reader’s eye across the page with ease. The tilts of characters’ heads, the shapes of panels, and the placement of word balloons all subtly lead from one to the next, resulting in a reading experience that’s clear, smooth, and allows one to fully take in the story and aesthetic to their fullest. It’s all a matter of comic book fundamentals, but true mastery of those fundamentals is what helps elevate a series like this to its highest potential.
Young love…or is it?
This is not a volume of pining; after much time spent worrying and doubting themselves the characters all make major moves this go-around. Aoki and Ida’s romance trots along at a consistent pace as the pair’s personality differences and communication difficulties naturally create tension even as they grow closer. Neurotic as these characters are, it feels appropriate that their emotional breakthroughs are always tempered by new difficulties.
Hashimoto and Aida’s relationship also gets a lot of page-time, and it brings out the best in Hashimoto’s character. Watching her progression from the shy girl in volume one to the bolder figure she is now is a treat. The flow of her conversations with Aida is excellent, fully capturing the awkward stops and starts that occur when people try to discuss private matters in public. Silent panels of the pair waiting for crosswalk signals to change help ground the events and effectively convey the conversation’s stilted nature.
The wrap-up and looking forward
This series’ first two volumes set a very high precedent to live up to, but this installment doesn’t falter. From ridiculous antics in the snow to realistically awkward street conversations, the writing sells these neurotic teens’ best and worst moments. The art also continues to show a fantastic understanding of comics as a medium and how to elevate a fairly standard premise into one of the most consistently enjoyable series of the year. Here’s hoping this manga keeps going for a long, long time.
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