Sometimes a song can save your life.
Love of music unites the four members of the band Given: hotheaded guitarist Uenoyama, playboy drummer Akihiko, gentle bassist Haruki, and Mafuyu, a singer gifted with great talent and burdened by past tragedy. Their struggles and conflicts may drive them apart, but their bond to the music—and to each other—always brings them back together again.
Ritsuka Uenoyama is bored with it all—with school, with his basketball club, and even with his one true passion: playing guitar. Until the day he finds his favorite hidden napping spot occupied by a strange boy cradling a broken-stringed guitar. At first, Uenoyama is nonplussed by Mafuyu Sato and his slightly odd behavior, but when, on a whim, he asks the other boy to sing, the power of Mafuyu’s voice pierces him to the core.
Warnings: homophobia (character gets outed), mention of suicide
I came to know of this series through the anime, so obviously, I know a little ahead of the story than what is in this first volume. However, I’ll try to write this review just on the basis of information from this volume, so here goes. The story starts with Uenoyama, a high school student and member of a band, finding another high school student, Mafuyu, hugging an expensive guitar, dozing in the former’s favorite napping spot, a stairwell. He replaces the guitar’s broken strings and strums on it a bit, and Mafuyu urges him to teach him. Uenoyama takes him to meet his band, the drummer Akihiko, and the bassist Haruki; later when he hears him sing a song, he asks him to join the band.
In this first volume, we get to know the boys a bit, and the story also hints at larger stories lurking. Mafuyu’s connection to the guitar, and the boy in his past and his grief over losing him are only mentioned, but it comes through in his characterization. Mostly naive and lost in space which usually gives him a puppy dog like personality, Mafuyu also has a despairing air about him that comes out when he is asked about love. Uenoyama is brash and arrogant, and he is like the ‘grumpy’ to Mafuyu’s ‘soft’, and it takes him a while to realize what his feelings regarding Mafuyu are. Haruki and Akihiko have their own story going on, mainly being that the former has a crush on the latter, who seems to be popular or a playboy. The four of them have a nice rapport, together, with Haruki being the mom friend of their group, and all of them becoming quickly friends with Mafuyu and folding him easily into the workings of the band.
The artwork of the manga is gorgeous, and I was delighted especially with Haruki’s design because he gets to have different hairstyles in nearly every chapter! There are also character design pages included in the book, where you can see the thought process that went into creating them. The one thing that I felt the manga didn’t bring out well was the music, and while it is a visual medium and not an audio one, there are other music series that do give you a ‘feel’ of the music, whereas here I don’t receive much information on how the music makes them feel, other than awe or enjoyment; it lacks that energy that I’ve come to associate with music-themed manga, like say, Anonymous Noise. Granted, it is firstly a romance, but the characters also communicate through their music, so it feels like a bit that is missing, you see?
Overall, though, it is a fantastic introduction to the romance, and the four members who make up the band.
Is it diverse? All the main characters are queer, with both gay and bi rep
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Viz Media LLC, via Edelweiss.
Releases on February 11, 2020