“Falling For The First Time” – Kare First Love (manga) – 5/10 Streamers

Love is like playing the piano. First you must learn to play by the rules, then you must forget the rules and play from your heart. ~Anonymous

Mangaka: Kaho Miyasaka

Genre: Romance/Drama/Slice-of-Life

Review Status: Complete (10 Volumes/10 Volumes)

Licensed: Yes, this manga is licensed in the US.

Summary: The age-old dilemma of choosing between your friend and the one yiou love is the lesson for the day for these bubble high schoolers. 16-year-old Karin Karino finds herself torn between keeping the friendship of her classmate Yuka and entertaining the advances of a boy named Kiriyo. Plain-Jane Karin experiences the gut-tingling roller coaster ride of her first love and first kiss as fate pairs her up with Kiriyo, who also happens to be Yuka’s object of afection. Through a series of chance meetings, Kiriyo discovers the exquisite beauty lurking behind Karin’s thick glasses and coy demeanor, and asks her to be his girlfriend. But living happily ever after in high school isn’t on the curriculum, as Karin soon finds herself the center of Kiriya’s attention, as well as the bulls eye in embittered pal Yuka’s dartboard of hate. (back cover of 1st volume)

Review: Falling in love for the first time can be unbearably awkward, an emotional rollercoaster that stays with us for most of our lives. Most people can remember the first time they fell in love with somebody. Few actually manage to have a relationship with that person, or have that relationship last.  Kare First Love explores the relationship of two teenager that meet by change, fall in love regardless of circumstances, and after that deal with…. well, mostly sex and the issues that bring up, with a side of family drama.

The first three volumes are the most interesting to me, since they explore the hows and whys of teenagers falling in love. Proximity can be one thing, and these two do end up being together a lot. It does delve into stereotypical territory, with the guy finally realizing that the girl is cute after she takes off her glasses. The issues of Karino falling love fail to be dealt with in a good way, though, with her relationship with her friend never really dealt with, and having been used in her friendship also a plot issue that’s never brought up except in the shallow cameos that her friend pops up in from time to time. But fall in love she does, and Kiriyo returns her feelings. The actual confession doesn’t seem forced or unnatural, surprisingly, and leaves the rest of the manga to explore their relationship.

What bothered me most about this series is how the relationship issues for much of the manga are centered around their sex life- or lack of it, as the case happens to be. There is a whole lot of discussion on whether they should, how they should bring it up, when they should finally be with each other. These issues are an important one, of course, but the heavy focus that takes up several volumes makes the relationship feel very shallow and very much based on the physical attraction they have. It means that in the end, they don’t know much about each other, and we don’t know much about them- not enough to be emotionally invested in the family drama that pops up later in the series.

The last two volumes center around Kiriyo and his family, the trauma that has caused his mother to be unable to leave her home and the overbearing father that is determined to decide his future. There is nothing here that hasn’t been done before, and it sticks closely to stereotypes and cliches. The ‘twist’ on Kiriyo’s family and situation really wasn’t that shocking. What is interesting is how it starts to bring in thoughts about the future, and how these two lovers need to make plans for it without trusting to a ‘happily ever after’. I enjoyed how Karin really had to think about what she wanted to do, and how undecided she was. Some people just don’t have a passion for something when they start out in college, and this captures the struggle and sadness she has about it very well. It doesn’t keep up the momentum it gets going with that, however. Her decision comes close to the end of the manga, which ends rather abruptly. Plot threads concerning Kiriyo’s future, and the future of their relationship are left hanging. There is no finality to the story, no epilogue, which is rather disappointing and definitely detracts from the story.

Overall, this started decently, but ends up a shallow romance with no depth.

Recommended: 16+. Most of this deals with the sexual tension between the two mains. They do have sex, but there’s no nudity shown, and the scenes are glossed over (cutscenes).

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

Kare Kano (manga)

High School Debut (manga)

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