Anyway, I’m Falling in Love with You Volume 1 Review

Mizuho lives in Koigahama Highland, and has grown up with four male friends: Shuugo, Shin, Airu and Kizuki. The five of them are inseparable, and Mizuho often gets female classmates saying they’re jealous, since she’s close to four very good-looking boys. On her 17th birthday, 1st July 2020, she tries to confess her love to Saito, a third year and member of the swimming team. When she’s rejected, her ruined special day takes a swerve when Kizuki kisses her, and confesses he wishes to be her boyfriend. Mizuho doesn’t want to have their precious friendship group be fractured, but with school events being cancelled left, right and centre, and Kizuki being very clear about his feelings, can Mizuho return them?

I’m writing this review in March 2024, so it’s been over four years since COVID-19 hit the world and we’re still feeling its effects to this day, despite no longer being in lockdowns or vaccine drives. COVID has impacted long term illness, the economy, our mental health, and so on, with a generation of young people labelled as the ‘COVID’, ‘Sacrificed’ or ‘Lost’ generation. And that’s just what we know; there’s a high chance of research being done decades in the future, revealing the true impact of such a monumental, worldwide pandemic that, as a society, we were keen to move on and ignore so quickly. If you’re wondering why this review suddenly got so political, it’s because this manga is set during the pandemic, and mentions it early on, despite showing the lack of masks and other COVID measures we’ve come to expect. At surface level, the mention of the pandemic seems shallow, with a few discussions of important school sports-related events being cancelled, but the date is significant in Japan. Like most of the world, COVID hit Japan in the first quarter of 2020, but by the beginning of summer, reported cases went down and some sports events like the delayed 2020 Nippon Professional Baseball started. But in July, new daily cases started to increase into triple digits, and a wave of cancellations started once again. It also should be noted that the Summer Olympics 2020 were supposed to hosted in Japan in July; it was moved to 2021 as result of the pandemic, but there were also talks of outright cancelling the Summer Olympics, and a large chunk of this series centres on the school swim team realising their futures are uncertain with everything going on. It’s this hotbed of uncertainly, or thinking COVID was over for a brief moment but to have it surge once more, that definitely has the potential for a heart-wrenching coming-of-age romance, of feeling your youth is being taken away, or heightening the emotions of realising you might lose something precious just a quickly as you found it. Anyway, I’m Falling in Love with You has the potential to really explore these themes, and the mangaka seems to be intentionally invoking it. In an interview at the back of the book, they originally were going to do a romance story around a boy’s swim team, and even attended a high school swimming competition in Tokyo 2019 as research. But when COVID hit, they pivoted towards that, as well as exploring the missing ‘golden age’ of youth during the height of COVID. So, whilst the first volume might not be going into these themes deeply yet, there’s definitely a shadow on the horizon that could work very well in the long term.

But in the short term, we’re introduced to the characters and the main love interest. Mizuho is a straightforward shojo lead; she’s peppy, confident, loves her childhood friends and nurtures a desire to become a manga artist in the future. Her four male friends are distinguishable too, from the nerdy Shuugo to the Instagram model Airu, but it’s Kizuki who’s painted as the main love interest and gets the most attention in this book. He’s the ‘baby’ of the group, and on the same swim team as Mizuho’s crush, but Mizuho only sees him as a ‘brother’, which bothers him. At the beginning of the book, his feelings are confirmed when he bites back at Saito, the one who rejected Mizuho’s advances. At first he says out loud that he plans to confess his feelings once he gets to the National Finals, but with the uncertainty of that future and Saito being callous about his feelings when talking to him, he instead takes the first leap on Mizuho’s birthday with a kiss. Now on an emotional level I do get what the mangaka was going for; however it’s what comes next that really turns me off from this couple. Mizuho’s reaction to this kiss is to hide from Kizuki, and to not want to see him; this doesn’t come across as someone who’s in denial of their feelings, but someone who really felt their boundaries violated and cannot face the one who pushed them. It doesn’t help that Kizuki continuously pushes her, saying he wants her to see him as ‘a man’ and that he’ll make her ‘fall in love’ with him. The framing of each of these moments is beautifully drawn; there’s no denying Haruka Mitsui’s talent for art style and framing, but the dialogue makes it icky for me personally. If you’re a fan of the male love interest being more forceful and desperate in their pursuit of romance, this won’t bother you, but after the first encounter I found myself less and less interested in the pair. It doesn’t help that the other three boys have so far not expressed their opinions on the matter or taken note of Mizuhi’s change of emotions, despite all being friends, perhaps the mangaka has plans to make them all fall for her (possibly, but there’s no Harem tag on the Kodansha website).

As noted, the art of this series is really good; from the very first page, with the two-page spread of the five friends, you can see Haruko Mitsui’s talent for composition, style, and design, and it carries over to the whole book with lots of wonderful shots that look very romantic (out of context of the dialogue). My only issue was the pacing and jumping from one scene to another, there seemed to be a consistent problem of feeling as if  we are missing panels to set up the various ‘romantic’ scenes. For example: there’s one section where Kizuki is kneeling on the floor, looking through Mizuho’s washing. Mizuho is standing up and then runs towards Kizuki, and yet in the next page they’re suddenly both lying down on the sofa, with Kizuki on top of Mizuho, and I cannot explain how they ended up like that. That’s the worst example but there’s a few other minor examples in the book of the same prospective and position changes that made no logical sense. This is Haruka’s second manga series overall (their first I Fell in Love After School is available in English but only in digital) so I assume it’s an issue that will be fixed with experience but I would be interested to see how the upcoming anime adaptation plans on making that scene work somehow.

Translation of the original digital edition is by Melissa Chiam; there’s no one noted for the printed edition, so I assume it’s the same translator. There are no translation notes but the back of the book provides the previously mentioned mini-interview with the mangaka, some character intros as well as rough sketches of the locations in the book and more.

Anyway, I’m Falling in Love with You has the foundation of a great coming-of-age romance story, and having it centred on a swimming team, at the time when the Summer Olympics were meant to happen, is a stroke of emotional genius. But it’s let down by a by-the-numbers heroine and a boundaries-pushing male love interest. I personally couldn’t get into this, but if anything I said above catches your interest, and are happy to ignore the forcefulness of the male lead, give it a shot; you may find something that I personally missed.

Read the first chapter at the Kodansha website here. 

Our review copy from Kodansha was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK.

5 / 10


By day, I work in the television industry. By night, I'm a writer for Anime UK News. Twitter: @lilithdarkstorm

More posts from darkstorm...