In all the weirdness of our schedule today (one of our monthly simulpubs came up and threw off our schedule), we almost forgot it was Review Rednesday! Lucky(?) for you, I remembered! So today we present our review of the first volume in a new Kodansha series, Love in Focus! Spoilers ahead!
The original plan was to write this review while listening to our new Wagakki Disney 2 CD, but then our PS4 came a day early, and we miiiight be a little antsy to get to some Kingdom Hearts II.8, but since we weren't planning on that until tomorrow anyway, we think we can ignore it long enough to focus on this review. Ha ha! I just used the word "focus." And I really liked this series, so I want to do it justice with the review.
We first heard about this series when we went to Anime Expo 2018, and Kodansha USA was announcing their new licenses at their panel. They said they had a new series from the creator of That Wolf-Boy Is Mine!, and by now we've learned that they tend to make announcements before assigning translators these days, so now we had to decide if we wanted to email editors and ask for it, because we loved Wolf-Boy, or if we wanted to just wait and hope they assigned it to us anyway, which seemed likely because we did
translate Wolf-Boy. We opted for the latter, because at the time we were ridiculously swamped and it seemed like a bad idea to deliberately add to our workload. I think this strategy may have cost us the other series they announced that we were interested in, but there's still time, we think, and frankly, it wouldn't be so bad if we didn't get it, because it would allow us more time to breathe.
Anyway, as I'm sure you've figured out by the fact that we're writing this review, the editor on this series did in fact ask us to translate it! Yay! And now here we are. See, I usually like to tell the stories about how we came to work on a series, but sometimes it's just not that interesting. But that is in no way a reflection on the series itself.
First, let's talk about the title. The English title, as you all know, is "Love in Focus," which comes from the heroine's obsession with photography. The Japanese titles is Renzu-sou no Sankaku, which means "the triangle of Lens Inn," and I'm pretty sure we wrote a note about the whole meaning of the title, and the business with the roof, because first of all, the love triangle thing is in all the summaries, including the one Kodansha USA used to introduce the series, and since the love triangle aspect isn't really clear until the end of the first volume, at first it seemed like, "Why is it so important that they mention the love triangle aspect?" Well, because of the Japanese title. But the thing about the title is the roof. We don't really call them triangle roofs in English, and I think that's because they're so typical that we just don't call them anything. Like, when a four-year-old draws a house, that's the kind of roof they draw. So we did the research to make sure we were using the right name for the roof, and it turns out it's actually a gabled roof. Well, okay, but I never got into Anne of Green Gables, so I don't know what a gable is. We look it up. The definition is basically "the thing on a gabled roof." Well, thanks. We tried again and we kept going in circles: a gabled roof is a roof with gables, a gable is the thing on a gabled roof. Eventually I think it was Wikipedia where we finally got it to explain that it's the triangle formed between the two sides of the roof. But it was way more effort than it was worth, and it was especially frustrating because this happened when we were still very crunched for time, and we were like, "Come on, Nogiri-sensei titles are supposed to be easy!" The gabled roof wasn't the only thing that gave us trouble, either--there was a lot of exposition in the first half of the volume. Fortunately, they got most of that out of the way by the second half, so it was all downhill (in a good way) from there, but oh man.
Anyway. The story! It's so cute! Whatshername...Mako. Mako has moved to a new town to start a new life, because before her whole life revolved around her grandfather, and he passed away so she needs a new life so as not to be reminded of the giant void he left behind. But that's not to say she's trying to forget about him--he taught her all about photography, and she has taken that love with her everywhere she goes, to the point where she'll often get lost as she gets absorbed in her craft. This happens again when she tries to find her way to her new boarding house, and while she waits at a park for her childhood friend Kei to come get her and show her home, she finds a puppy and can't resist taking more pictures. But of course dogs can't hold still, so while she follows it with the camera she accidentally takes a picture of a person! Oh no! It's rude to take people's pictures without permission, guys. Cosplay is not consent.
This guy wasn't cosplaying, but he's also probably the one guy in the whole entire world who gets that
offended at having his picture taken. He demands that she delete the picture this instant! Well, unfortunately, Mako is a total photography hipster and she's using a film camera. She can't delete the picture, and she doesn't know what to do, so she does the sensible thing...and runs away! Aaaaahhhh! Fortunately, Kei runs into her before she can get lost again, and together they finally make it to Mako's new home...only to discover that Mr. Grumpy Pants his her nextdoor neighbor! What! ...she said as if she was surprised in any way. I mean, shoujo manga does tend to be a little formulaic, but nobody reads it for its ground-breaking plot twists, am I right?
Well, Mako actually seems to be a little bit different from the stereotype of a shoujo manga heroine, in that she's not always afraid to just say what's on her mind, but she does fit the mold in that she immediately makes efforts to improve her relationship with whatsisname starts with a K? No, her old friend is Kei-chan. Grumpy Face is ru...m...Mitsuru! Whew, I'm glad we remembered that. Anyway, Mako very sensibly realizes that it's probably a good idea to befriend
her nextdoor neighbor instead of just giving each other dirty looks every time they cross paths. (Incidentally, did y'all realize, she lives in the corner, her friend lives across the hall, and Mitsuru lives next door? It's another triangle.) One thing leads to another, Mako finally sees Mitsuru with his hair out of his face (I also really like how so many other characters comment on how hard it must be to have that much
hair in your face), and *shocknotshocked!* he's a total hottie. And now she wants to take his picture. But he doesn't like pictures, and he especially doesn't like his face. And Mako was like, "What is wrong with you?" And we were like, "You're an ex-model, aren't you?"
It ends with Kei walking in on them...oh right, this was an accidental encounter in the changing area for the bath. So Mitsuru was half-naked, and now Mako is assaulting him. The series was self-aware enough to comment on the cliche, in case anyone was worried. I also wanted to comment on how much clothing Mitsuru was wearing for this encounter. He already had his pants on and everything. I kind of like that Nogiri-sensei's work is so chaste. But I also think it's hilarious that when Mako first opened the door and saw him, she was like, "Oh, I'm so sorry!" and immediately shut the door, but then she realized something and didn't hesitate to walk in on him again. Bwa ha ha...
Anyway, then we get a lot of exposition about how the inn works, and photography club, and some philosophy about good photography and how not everyone has the same taste etc. etc. And we meet the other tenants of Lens Inn, but who cares about them? I'm sorry, Nene, you're adorable. And the deep-voiced sempai. And I guess Nobu's fun, too. I feel like they're mostly just accessories at this point, though. People to hang around and say, "No, seriously, why did you follow Kei here if you're not
his girlfriend?" So basically they're just there to foreshadow what we knew was going to happen all along because of the title.
So stuff happens, and fate intervenes! As hinted at, Mitsuru refused to let Mako take his picture, and she was like, "I wonder if there's some reason he hates pictures and his face?" and we're like, "because he has a traumatic past as a model," and Fate says, "Here's some magazines with his picture!" So Mako confronts Mitsuru about it, and that was pretty great, too. He's like, "So what, are you going to blackmail me now?" and she's like, "Hey, there's an idea!" This is why I think Mako is a little atypical, and why I like her so much. Then she's like, "Joking aside, seriously, what happened?" And he explains that he was a child model, but then he realized he didn't like it and the pressure got to him so he quit, but everyone around him was still talking behind his back, so he decided to move to the frozen north to get away from it all. (I added the "frozen" part, but it's Hokkaido, so we know the adjective applies.) And now that Mako has shown a genuine interest in who he is as a person, as opposed to as a model or gossip fodder, he starts to be interested in her, too... Oooohhhhh...
So he finally agrees to let her take his picture, and he doesn't seem to nix the idea of taking a picture of his face, either, as long as he can keep his stupid long bangs and thick glasses. And the reminds me! There was a scene where Mako rescued him from bullies! Only she didn't, because they saw her and Mitsuru ended up having to rescue her instead, but oh my goodness, you guys, that scene was great, because the bullies weren't really bullies, they were just annoying jerks, but they were kind of sincere, I guess? and it was hilarious. Like, they really meant it when they offered to help Mitsuru cut his bangs, and then when Mako tried to get photographic evidence of their crime, they were like, "Cool, you're a photographer! Take our picture!" And then they basically called her a hipster for using a film camera, and I just really liked them. That whole thing was part of what brought M&M closer.
And now Kei is starting to realize that there's something going on. A refrain that gets repeated a few times is that Mako, on her grandfather's advice, has a habit of taking pictures when her heart is moved. Kei has noticed that, while she used to only take pictures of scenery and animals, suddenly she's interested in taking a very specific person's picture, and he is not amused. We do learn a little bit about his past--he was basically a spoiled rich kid, but not spoiled in the sense of he always got whatever he wanted. Spoiled in the sense of his parents tried to force so much onto him that he pretty much rebelled against everything. Not that he went all juvenile delinquent on them, fortunately, but he ran off and hung out with his new friend Mako and her grandfather, and now they're both into photography together. Awww. (Also, how they met was hilarious. "Hide and seek?" "Yeah...let's go with that.")
Come to think of it, Fox Boy in That Wolf-Boy Is Mine! was similarly a spoiled rich kid. So now we know that if you're a spoiled rich kid in a Yoko Nogiri manga, your chances of winning the love triangle duel are very small. I mean, sure, there's a chance
Kei will get Mako to fall in love with him instead, but... It's not looking good for him. And he went and made his chances even worse by basically declaring war on Mitsuru. Being the selfish jerk of the love triangle usually doesn't help your case. He's pretty cute, though, and he seems nice enough generally, so I do hope he finds happiness. And who knows, maybe Nogiri-sensei will surprise us? (Not likely. Mako has changed Mitsuru's whole outlook on life, so... (Then again, I guess she did that for Kei, too, introducing him to photography and everything, but it happened in a flashback, and not in the main story.))
I feel like I should mention Saionji...and I did have something to say about him! His name is ruka, and the immediate thought for that was to spell it Luca, which had us going, "Why do they keep giving French characters Italian names?" But then it occurred to me that maybe there was a silent S at the end. We don't know if there was supposed to be or not, but we did find out that there's a French soccer player named Lucas with a silent S, and it's possible that that's where Nogiri-sensei got the idea for his name. Ultimately, our editor will have made the final decision, so we don't know how it will turn out, but we did write a note for it, just in case. He's kind of a fun character, too, but, like the other tenants of Lens Inn, he really feels more like an accessory than anything else.
Anyway, it's starting out to be a super cute series, and I'm looking forward to reading more!
Aww, what a fun series. We actually translated the last volume about two months ago, so it was almost like this series doesn't exist for us anymore, so it was especially nice to read this review.
As for this week's new releases, there's just one! My Monster Secret 15! And since we're all caught up on reviews again, tune in next week for the review of that very volume!
Today I'm thankful for getting our simulpub finished, getting to read a nice review of a nice series, finding King Banana, not being out of reviews to post just yet, and making a little progress on Fire Force.