First Stage of Love, The Vol. #01 -

Manga Review

Mania Grade: A

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  • Art Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
  • MSRP: 12.95
  • Pages: 200
  • ISBN: 978-1-56970-739-5
  • Size: A5
  • Orientation: Right to Left

First Stage of Love, The Vol. #01

First Stage of Love, The Vol. #01 Manga Review

By Briana Lawrence     January 06, 2010
Release Date: April 08, 2008

First Stage of Love
© Digital Manga Publishing

Because chubby boys need love too, damnit!

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Kazuhiko Mishima
Translated by:Melanie Schoen
Adapted by:N/A

What They Say
Kikuchi, a lonely bookstore clerk, can't help but wonder about Kajinoki, a regular customer of the shop. With each visit, he longs to see Kajinoki again and his heart starts to beat wildly in his presence. Is Kikuchi falling in love? And isn't Kajinoki married?

The Review
The first word that comes to mind when I look at the cover is “adorable.”  The two boys look so happy to be close to one another, and the glasses and suit on one of the boy’s definitely helps to draw me in.  The back of the cover is just gorgeous.  Flower petals and soft colors in a dark background, there’s a boy leaning in to kiss his lover, both of them wearing outfits that I wish every hot boy would wear on a normal bases. 

I really like this manga for the different types of boys it has, particularly the chubby boy.  I’ve never read a boy’s love manga with a love interest who wasn’t thin and gorgeous so that fact alone made me a fan of this book.  The characters are the main artistic focus of this book and there’s a great amount of detail in all of them -- even the girls in the background.   

This is one of the rare times when the back of a DMP book actually has a pretty accurate description.  This book is about different couples and that nervous feeling you get when you really like a person, trying to be perfect for them and worrying over every little thing. 

There are five different couples in this anthology, each one struggling with their own insecurities as one guy crushes after another one.  The nice thing about said insecurities each character has is that they are pretty normal.  There’s no stress about being gay or anything like that, instead these boys worry about being overweight, or getting too, or not being good enough in bed.  It makes for an interesting, cute story.

1.  Nanase and Yui-sensei
Yui-sensei has the best anti-smoking campaign -- not as traumatizing as those TRUTH ads but still pretty effective.  When he sees one of his students, Nanase, smoking on the school roof he tells him that he hates smoking because of the way it tastes when you kiss a smoker.  Needless to say, the two end up kissing, but one of Nanase’s friends tells him that Yui-sensei used a similar method to get him to stop smoking.  Nanase finds himself getting angry over it, but he learns that Yui-sensei has only kissed him and not any of his other students.  It’s at that point that Nanase decides to stop smoking.  These two have one last story together at the end of the manga where Nanase brings Yui-sensei a box of chocolates, but makes him say “Please feed them to me” before he gives him one.  Yui-sensei responds by biting Nanase’s finger.

2.  Keiichi and Hiroyuki

This is where the humor of the story starts to kick into full gear.  Keiichi has the worst day ever when a little girl he runs into calls him “sir.”  It’s here he realizes that he isn’t as young and cute as he use to be and he fears that his boyfriend, Hiroyuki, will notice.  It gets worse when some coworkers point out the gray hair he’s getting.  Keiichi starts avoiding Hiroyuki, which leads Hiroyuki to believe that Keiichi wants to break up.  When he finds out the real reason he’s quick to call Keiichi an idiot and the two of them make up, Hiroyuki telling him that they should grow into old geezers together. 

3.  Seta and Murakami

Murakami is worried that he’s no good in bed, especially since it was Seta’s first time with a man and he seems to be avoiding him.  It gets worse when he hears office rumors about the beautiful Takahashi-san being a little too close to Seta.  Seta assures him that it isn’t like that at all, but Takahashi goes up to Murakami and tells him that she’s getting married and changing her name to Seta.  Murakami doesn’t take this news well at all and pulls Seta away from work, demanding an answer.  It turns out that Takahashi is marrying his father and is going to be his new mother, not his wife.  In fact, Takahashi was baiting Murakami on purpose to see how much he truly cared for Seta -- think the evil twin sister in “Level C.”  As the two make up it leads to a humorous conversation of Seta telling Murakami to take it easy on him, because the first time hurt, but Seta doesn’t listen and faces the wrath of Takahashi for hurting her soon-to-be son.

4.  Kikuchi and Kaji

The main couple pictured on the front of the book tells the story of a bookstore employee and his crush on one of the customers.  One day, Kaji buys a children’s book, and Kikuchi worries that he is a family man with a wife and children.  It turns out the book is for a friend and Kikuchi throws himself at the man.  This catches Kaji off guard and he tells Kikuchi to go back to work, but soon Kaji realizes that he likes the other boy very much.  The two of them start a sort of shaky relationship since Kikuchi seems to have Kaji on his mind all the time whereas the other man seems to always be busy with work.  But Kikuchi soon learns that that doesn’t mean that Kaji doesn’t care about him, in fact, its quite the opposite.  And their story ends with Kikuchi’s coworker having to deal with how giddy he is over his relationship with Kaji.  Poor girl.  

5.  Naoki and Hiroyuki (not the same one from the second couple)

This is my absolute favorite story in this anthology for one reason only: the chubby kid.  Much to Naoki’s surprise, his friend Hiroyuki has a huge crush on him because he likes fat kids.  Naoki freaks out and proceeds to go on a diet over summer vacation, but when Hiroyuki sees a skinny him he thinks that the once overweight Naoki doesn’t like him.  So to make up for it, Naoki decides to gain all of the weight back!  … idiot.  It doesn’t work well, of course, because he’s constantly eating and ends up making himself sick.  He finds out that Hiroyuki doesn’t actually care if he’s skinny or fat, its him that he likes.  The fat kid fetish was just his way of trying to say that he liked him.  The two of them grow closer, but when Hiroyuki leaves during break Naoki ends up getting fat again.  He decides to try and lose weight -- thinking that Hiroyuki thought he was cuter as a skinny kid -- but Hiroyuki tells him, again, that he doesn’t care if he’s fat or skinny because he thinks he’s adorable no matter what.

In Summary:

I don’t always go for the cute stories but I really like this manga.  I like the fact that the concerns the boys had were those normal concerns any person -- guy or girl -- has when they have a crush on someone or when they’ve just started dating.  The aging, the quality of sex, the weight problem, it all makes these characters endearing to read about.  I love Naoki so much because he can’t seem to grasp the fact that Hiroyuki loves him no matter what he looks like, so he keeps going overboard when he doesn’t have to.  Kikuchi is in that stage where he wants to call his lover every ten minutes.  Murakami is worried about how good the sex is and becomes irrationally jealous when he doesn’t need to be -- though Takahashi definitely “poked the bear” to make it worse.  And Keiichi freaking out over being called sir?  Priceless.

Maybe I have a soft spot for this manga because these are issues most women are portrayed as having, but its nice to see boys worrying over their appearance and trying to be perfect for that person they’re crushing so hard over.  And it’s a  boy’s love manga where the main problem isn’t being gay, but its, well… gray hair!  It’s a nice change of pace.  And major bonus points for the chubby kid, even if he keeps the weight off in the end its not to impress the boy, because the boy doesn’t care what he looks like.  In fact, he admits his crush while Naoki is fat.  Finally, the cute chubby kid gets some love!


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