Manga Review - Three In Love vol 1 & 2

Three In Love is the debut series of Crossroad creator Shioko Mizuki.   Currently, Go! Comi also publishes her on-going series Cy-Believers as well.  There is a lot of charm in this early work, but these volumes also clearly show an amateur-mangaka finding her way.  Mizuki is always worth checking out, if only for the different ways she chooses to balance the "wacky" with real, emotional content.  Crossroad goes overboard on angsty emotion, Cy-Believers clearly favors "the wacky", and Three In Love offers an interesting mix of those two elements.  Interesting but not always entirely successful on the storytelling level.

As the title indicates, Three In Love is about three people in one relationship.  Our heroine Machiru wants to maintain her childhood friendship with the handsome and popular Suruga, but they've reached that age where boys and girls start pairing off...and if she doesn't make the jump and declare him her snuggle-bunny, she may lose him forever to other girls.   Instead of doing exactly that, Machiru comes up with the hair-brained idea of sharing him with her competition, the sweet Hanakago.  Machiru seems to have real affection for her competition, but she often treats Hanakago like a pretty pet and uses the front of bisexuality as an excuse to keep both Suruga and Hanakago close to her.

The stalemate these three devise in the form of the relationship is really a cover for Machiru, who is not ready to be romantically devoted to a single boy, and, therefore, unwilling to relinquish her close ties to her much-beloved childhood friend to another girl who is.  And it is through this avenue that Mizuki inserts realistic, teenage experience and emotion into the narrative, since Machiru's fears are realistic -- it is her outlandish response to those fears that bring the inevitable "wacky" to the narrative.  However, it is the "wacky" the powers the story and can get a little exhausting at times.

In other words, like most manga set in high school there are episodes centering around culture festivals, going to the pool, going to an amusement park, and so on and so forth.  In addition, complications ensue with two boys entering the scene, one after Machiru and one after Hanakago, so that it seems like it isn't three people in a relationship but 5 people in a deeply awkward love pentagon. 

Mizuki's early attempts at the "wacky" really tire me out, yet I keep coming back because Machiru is an incredibly compelling character and I want to see if she can sort out her fears about intimacy and actually allow herself to fall in love with one person.  Artistically, Mizuki's early work lacks a confidence her later art in Crossroad will assume.  In many ways, one has to be deeply comfortable with sketchy, confusing art (bolstered, as always by the "wacky", sigh) and mixed with surprisingly unique chibi-forms, which are abused rather extensively in her debut series.  

In the end, I'm carried along by Three in Love because I want to find out how Machiru develops as a human being -- can she accept the different social values and expectations we attach to friendship versus the ones we attach to love?  Can she learn to trust one person with her inner self?  Mizuki learning to be a professional mangaka is in itself another aspect to these volumes, we track not just the emotional growth of the protagonist but mangaka's ever increasing self-assurance as a story-teller and as an artist.


Review copies provided by Go! Comi.

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