Love in Focus (蓮住荘のさんかく) by Yōko Nogiri is a shōjo, romance manga series that revolves around a young teen named Mako who has a passion for photography. When a tragedy occurs in her personal life, she uses her passion as a means to distract her from the complexities of the emotions that follow. Noticing her sense of feeling lost, her childhood chum, Kei, invites her to attend his high school where they have a rather prestigious photography club, to which Mako accepts willingly. Upon her arrival, she bumps into a stranger that shall turn into an unexpected muse and finally finds a way to heal her grieving heart.
I came about the first two volumes randomly at my local hole-in-the-wall bookshop. They were having a sale, and since the premise for this manga sounded very interesting to me—with a cover that looked splendidly Spring-friendly—I went ahead and snagged the first two volumes. Upon learning that there are only three volumes in the whole series, I ordered the final volume a couple of days later. I’m really happy that I took a chance on Love in Focus because it turned out to be a simple and sweet story about a young girl trying to find a way to move forward with her adoration of photography, and a couple of boys who needed to discover the joys and bittersweet comforts of self-acceptance and rejection, respectively.
I love that there is no complicated melodrama that prolongs the narrative past its prime, which can be rather typical of the shōjo romance genre. Instead, we are gifted with a very straightforward and feel-good tale laced with comforting camaraderie and heart-warming romance. The only downside about this, however, is that the emotional baggage that the main kids have can feel a bit rushed as they are hastily developed within the smaller three volume maximum.
Another element that I appreciated was the manner in which jealousy is handled. While there is a spot of envy and anxiety that stems from the fear of losing an opportunity at being able to be with the person you love, it never falls into the immature levels of manipulation and sabotage. This provides Love in Focus with a bit more of a mature and tender tone and ambiance. There is tension as the audience awaits to see whom Mako shall choose, but it never comes across as stifling and stressful. Instead, the boys end up formulating a unique bond of their own via their mutual rivalry and it builds up a light-hearted and compassionate reading experience.
The side characters were some of my favourite folx in the manga. They are all quite bubbly and energetic in their own special ways and it was so wonderfully endearing! I think these minor cast members are what truly emphasise the fluffy Spring atmosphere more than anything else. It’s like they’re all blossoming with a joy for life, the challenges they’re facing with their respective interests and majors, and even their own romantic tidings. A big part of me wished there were more volumes of Love in Focus just so we could get to know these individuals on a more intimate level. Having dimension to their histories and overall identities would have been a nice way to give this manga more meat and bones.
If there are any other potential shortcomings in this series, aside from the truncated length, it’s the predictability of the romantic affiliations and whom Mako shall inevitably choose as her beau. Readers that aren’t a fan of predictability will not take pleasure in this aspect. My disappointment stemmed not from the easy-to-gauge coupling but more the choice she makes in general. I feel the other guy would’ve been a much better match for her, especially since guys like him always seem to receive the short end of the stick where love is concerned. It would be great to see them get their day of joy every once in a while. I also just preferred his charm and kindness more than his rival.
If you’re still unsure as to whether you should read this manga, then I’d recommend this to you if you are a fan of lovely art and drawings. It’s beautifully dainty and quaint with a softness to the line work that complements the overall tender and comforting nature I touched upon above. The panels are aesthetically pleasant and arranged in a super neat manner with cutesy patterns to the boxes. Their positionings also make it quite easy to navigate the flow of the story, interactions, and dialogues. The backgrounds are mostly plain to accommodate for the characters, making them the centre focus of the narrative, illustrating that this is indeed a character-driven tale more than anything else. The scenery, when shown, is infused with Spring-like florals and designs which also add to the romance as a whole.
Overall, I adored Love in Focus and highly recommend this manga to readers that are searching for a short, sweet, and pretty simple romance shōjo that isn’t bogged down with drama and bullying. It’s also an excellent choice for anyone searching for something to put them into the season’s spirit and mood. If you like manga such as Blue Spring Ride, Orange, and Snow White with the Red Hair, then you may delight in Love in Focus as well!
Publisher: Kodansha Comics (English)
Total Volumes: 3
Content Warnings: Loss in family (off page). Bullying and verbal abuse of child via adults. Mild sexual innuendo.
AniList: Renzu-sō no Sankaku by Yōko Nogiri