Genre: manga, boy’s love, LGBTQIA+, romance, slice of life
Content warnings: suicide mentioned, and while most characters are pretty chill there is a slight homophobia and bad intentioned rumors
Thank you to VIZ Media for providing an advanced copy in exchange of a honest review.
In high school I used to read a lot of yaoi or boy’s love titles. A lot of those were full of bad and harmful tropes, which I only realized as I got older. Nowadays, because of this I have a much higher standard for the genre and I tend to be very picky. So, when I heard about Given getting an anime and that it is a boy’s love title with music I was very wary. Fortunately, Given turned out to be a pretty solid story overall and I was happy with it. When I have seen that the manga is getting an English translation I knew I wanted to read it.
I feel that the story works better in the original manga format because of one main thing: the narration. A lot of the manga’s subtle feelings come through by being able to glimpse into our main characters thoughts and that seems to work much better in the manga than it did in the adaptation.
Our main characters are Mafuyu and Uenoyama. The story starts with a vague glimpse into Mafuyu’s past and then we get to see how these two become friends, by mere chance. Uenoyama likes to take naps during the school day in a remote stairway. One day however he spots another students at his usual spot, Mafuyu, who is taking a nap while hugging a guitar. Mafuyu is seemingly out of it and doesnt talk much, but it turns out he broke the strings on his guitar. Uenoyama, who is actually in a band and plays the guitar, ends up fixing it for him.
Mafuyu is absolutely star-struck and begs Uenoyama to teach him how to play the guitar. Uenoyama refuses, because he doesn’t know this weird kid and has no idea how to teach someone else. As such their unlikely friendship starts. Mafuyu seems really stuck on the idea of Uenoyama teaching him, and Uenoyama can’t get Mafuyu out of his head for some reason. When Uenoyama discovers that Mafuyu has a really great voice he invites him to join their band.
The two spend a lot of time together and grow closer. We learn that Uenoyama used to be really excited about music but he seems to have burned out. There also might be some explanation on why Mafuyu seems to space out a lot and why he talks so little. I really like the flow of the story and how the characters inspire and push each other to change. The side characters are also great at supporting and they have their own things going on in the background as well. Uenoyama’s passion for music reignites thanks to Mafuyu, and Mafuyu in turn takes some steps to recover from a past that haunts him.
Uenoyama and Mafuyu are both branded as kids who are bad at communicating, and when Mafuyu has trouble expressing himself it frustrates Uenoyama. This is understandable but the one thing I didn’t like is that at such moments and the only way he can tell his feelings to Mafuyu is by.. shouting at him. Of course, this is more for a dramatic effect and not used as a way to force him to do anything but it is not the best way to get someone talking. At least the characters speak up that this bad way to communicate and he is told to learn to communicate better so I will expect better progress in this aspect.
As mentioned I really like our supporting characters. First we have two more members in the band, college boys Kaji and Akihiko. They are great mentors to the boys, offering advice on how to pay for their instruments and even life issues. They also seem to have their own romantic crushes and issues going on. The characters are well developed and their interactions with each other propel the story forward.
Then we have our less important side characters who despite their small roles seem to propel the story forward in unexpected ways. We meet some of Uenoyama’s classmates and old friends of Mafuyu and through them we learn about some rumors regarding Mafuyu’s past and a possible ex. While I don’t condone people gossiping about other’s personal issues it is an effective way to have both the readers and Uenoyama learn more about Mafuyu. And I really appreciated the fact that he said nothing about those rumors to Mafuyu, instead he just let Mafuyu open up to him on his own terms.
The art is gorgeous throughout the manga. At the end of the chapters there are character profiles of our main characters. I really appreciate all the thought the mangaka put into the characters defining features, like their face and eye shapes. At the end we even have some funny short stories in 4-koma style.
I like the slow build of the relationships in the story and the relaxed pacing of the story. I enjoyed this volume immensely and I am really looking forward to the next one!
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