Love in Focus
蓮住荘のさんかく (Renzu-Sou no Sankaku)
Shoujo – Drama, romance, slice-of-life
3 Volumes (complete)
Mako loves photography, and she decides to attend her friend Kei’s high school and boarding house because of the school’s club. On her way to her new home, Mako accidentally takes a picture of a guy, and he turns out to be another resident! But unlike most of the other boarders, Mitsuru seems to dislike pictures…
Love in Focus is just a little too short to focus on love.
Mako’s grandfather introduced her to photography, and she became especially addicted to taking pictures while he was sick. Now that he’s passed away, Mako continues her passion. Her friend Kei, who also was mentored by her grandfather, suggests she come to his school since a pro leads their photography club. And most members (including Kei) live at a nearby boarding house (nicknamed Lens Inn). So while this means moving quite a distance, Mako heads to Hokkaido, much to Kei’s delight.
On her first day in town, Mako snaps some pictures of a dog and then the boy it runs up to. He gets upset, but Mako dashes off with a quick apology. It turns out that he’s also a resident of Hasumi Inn: Mitsuru, who is also starting high school. While Mitsuru normally looks shaggy and raggedy, Mako discovers he’s quite handsome and asks to take his picture. Mitsuru turns her down, and even when they end up in the same class, he avoids her.
Of course, there’s a reason why he seems to get annoyed whenever pictures are mentioned: he was a childhood model but quit. But Mako’s passion for photography gets him to agree to be her model. This surprises Kei, as Mako never took a lot of pictures of people. With the other residents of the boarding house including a couple of lovebirds, a senior who looks more like an adult than a high school student, and a whimsical quarter-Frenchman, Mako is looking forward to continuing her journey as a budding photographer.
Oh, and finding love, which you probably have already guessed. Readers have some extra insight into Kei’s feelings, but a few people quickly ask if Kei and Mako are going out considering how much he’s talked about her before arriving and because of how close they seem. So it’s easy to understand his jealousy — the person you’ve liked for years moves closer to you and is even going to be hanging out with you for most of the day. But that person arrives and quickly takes interest in someone else, even though they shrug it off as just artistic/professional interest and not a romantic one. Oh, and you overhear them saying you’re like a sibling.
But Mako herself is oblivious to his internal struggles until the end of the manga. Which, unfortunately for the story development, comes very soon. Three volumes is pretty short in manga-dom, and it’s especially short when one person has no clue and another states he has no interest in getting involved and/or ruffling any feathers. Love in Focus starts off like it’s going to be a slow-but-steady romance, but instead, it suddenly has to round all the bases. As such, feelings seem to change rather abruptly. One of the other boarders mentions love can happen suddenly, but there wasn’t much time between that first realization to mutual feelings.
I mean, things resolve as expected, but the manga had so much potential. While Mako may be a little too camera-crazy (taking a picture of a guy mid-conversation about him not liking his picture taken), it’s nice to see a heroine with an actual interest in something. She’s also very good at it, having won several contests. Some heroines you wonder how they would survive in the real world because the author puts too much effort into making them sooooo average or soooo clueless/clumsy/dumb. Mako may not have her whole future mapped out (wedding photographer? nature photographer? reporter?), so she still has room to grow and find exactly what she wants to do.
Still, though, with a limited number of volumes, the manga doesn’t have time for much about her actually taking pictures. The other members of Lens Inn are also woefully underused. This is all just a case of not having time, but I’m not exactly sure if Nogiri ended the series early or if it was always planned to be this short.
It’s too bad, because Love in Focus could have been a solid down-to-earth, relaxing read, something similar to Waiting for Spring. This series is not going to have many people disliking it, which is a good thing. I probably wouldn’t categorize it as forgettable either, as not a lot happens and the whole story can be easily summarized. But it’s not going to be something that sticks with readers, that they’ll excitedly want to share it with others right after finishing.
Those who do want to talk about the manga will likely want to talk about the “other” option for Mako. I won’t say which one it is, so I’ll just talk about both. As is standard in these stories, one is the more sweet option and one is the more standoffish option. Kei, as I mentioned, has been looking forward to seeing Mako again, and flashbacks show just how important she is to him. Mitsuru would rather hang out with the landlady’s dog than the other residents, but he’s hardly rude. Quite frankly, while he gives Mako the cold shoulder once school starts, she deserved it. But Mitsuru soon respects her passion and opens up to her.
As I mentioned earlier, Kei sees Mitsuru as a threat while the latter is disinterested in being in a love triangle. The two never become friends, but they at least become friendly. Kei hears about Mitsuru’s circumstances, and although he has some missteps due to his jealousy, he does try to give the younger guy some advice. So in the end, while there are hurt feelings, there isn’t a lot of anger or resentment between the two. The love triangle ends up being handled better than expected, but because Mako doesn’t realize her feelings until the end of the story, there’s little time to enjoy the romance. Even before then, there aren’t many of the usual dokidoki scenes you’d expect. But if you want a chaste series, this one fits the bill.
One of those expected moments is Mitsuru’s appearance. Even in his debut, he never looks completely disheveled so that his more handsome appearance underneath is a surprise. (Although we see him glasses-less and with his hair slicked back in the first chapter.) I actually thought his “uncool” self gave him more personality, and that’s the appearance he has for most of the manga. So the manga has more of a realistic artstyle versus the often-seen comedic makeover, although that is discussed (and shown off-camera) for another character. Nogiri’s art tends to be whispy, and lights in eyes are rather minimal. The art is solid throughout the short series, and the author has some lovely background and settings to match the focus on pictures and natural beauty. Again, overall, it’s similar to manga like Waiting in Spring, so if that kind of heavy-greyscale art is your preference, Love in Focus may rank higher on your list. But the calm, soothing vibe works well in a manga like this.
Honorifics are used. Western name order is used. I noticed at least one typo (fours years old). Translation notes are included to explain things like the house’s nickname. But otherwise, not much to comment on. I didn’t care for the font for thoughts though. It seems to be in the same font family as Times New Roman, which I don’t care for in manga. I really don’t like it when (normal) spoken dialogue is in all-caps, and then it switches to a font with upper- and lowercase letters for monologues. It’s like a visual disconnect, but maybe it’s just me.
Love in Focus probably would have been a great short series if the manga had a couple more volumes. I guess the author could Mako and Mitsuru had been more aware and proactive in their feelings like Kei was, but that would ruin the balance of the love triangle. It’s a likable story, but that’s probably not enough for most readers to warrant a purchase.
Kodansha Comics also published Nogiri’s That Wolf-Boy is Mine! and is releasing Those Not-So-Nice Boys.