The mangaka behind That Wolf Boy is Mine! returns with brand new series Love in Focus. Following the story of a girl finding her way in life and stumbling upon love in the process, just what does this manga have to offer shojo fans? Well, let’s find out!
Love in Focus follows Mako Mochizuki who has a passion for photography thanks to her late grandfather. After his passing, she’s encouraged by childhood friend Kei to move away from home and join his high school, whose photography club is taught by a professional photographer. Keen to keep her passion alive, Mako agrees to attend the school and stay in the dorms nearby, but upon arrival she meets a boy who might change her world forever…
Our protagonist is easily distracted and upon arrival in her new town she quickly gets captivated by the sights and starts taking photos. While doing so, she comes across a puppy that she’s keen to capture on film. In doing so she accidentally takes a photo of the boy walking this dog and, unfortunately for Mako, he hates having his photo taken! Scared of the stranger’s harsh reaction to the accidental photo, Mako runs away before properly apologising. However, upon arriving at her new home she’s shocked to the discover that the boy (identified as Amemura) is a fellow dorm-mate.
Off to a rocky start, Mako attempts to apologise to Amemura properly for her earlier actions, but she has her work cut out for her as Amemura, who is good at holding a grudge, prefers to keep to himself. Mako manages to win him over and discovers why Amemura hates being photographed so much, but her problems don’t end there. As Mako has been spending so much time with Amemura, Kei is now jealous of their budding friendship and, unbeknownst to Mako, harbours romantic feelings for her.
Love in Focus is a good old-fashioned love triangle. Mako is starting to see Amemura in a whole different light and is developing romantic feelings for him (unbeknownst to her but clear to us as readers!) and Amemura is clearly falling for her, too. On the other hand, we have Kei, whom we learn has not had a girlfriend since entering high school. When Mako joins the dorm, many of her classmates assume she’s Kei’s girlfriend and it certainly looks as if Kei wishes that were true!
While the series isn’t offering anything unique, I find myself growing fond of the three main characters already. Mako is your usual oblivious and ditzy protagonist, but that’s okay because she’s charming and easy to empathise with. The boys, for their part, are likable and each has interesting backstories to give them depth. While this volume is more focused on Amemura than Kei, we learn a lot about both of them and I’m looking forward to seeing how their stories unfold going forward.
Where artwork is concerned, mangaka Yoko Nogiri has created a crisp and cutesy series. Although backgrounds aren’t usually very detailed, Nogiri does put more effort in for scenes where Mako is taking photos and this offers a nice contrast to scenes of the cast’s everyday lives. The character designs are clean and attractive, while Nogiri also has a knack expressing even the most subtle changes in her characters’ feelings.
This volume comes to the West thanks to publisher Kodansha Comics and has been translated by Alethea and Athena Nibley. The translation reads well and is problem-free. Love in Focus has finished in Japan at only three volumes and while this leaves me concerned as to whether that’s enough time to bring the story to a meaningful conclusion, that does mean it’s less of a commitment for readers. Kodansha currently has Volume 2 set for release in May and then the final volume in July, so certainly it’s not long to wait to finish the story!
Overall Love in Focus isn’t groundbreaking nor is it particularly compelling to read, but the characters are charming and intriguing enough to keep you turning the pages to see what’s next. Those looking for a short shojo fix will find a lot to like here.
A free preview for Love in Focus can be found on Kodansha’s website here.