Otaku USA Magazine
[Review] Love in Focus

Upbeat, resourceful, and creative, Mako became a photographer for the sake of her beloved grandpa and turns out to have an artist’s eye. At the suggestion of her handsome childhood friend Kei, she transfers to Kei’s high school to take advantage of its first-rate photography club. Mako’s new life includes a room at Hasumi Inn, also known as “Lens Inn,” a boarding house conveniently inhabited by all the school’s photography students. And on her way there she has a textbook meet cute, snapping a photo of a cute guy petting an equally cute dog. Wouldn’t you know it: the guy is Amemura, one of her new housemates, and, OMG, he hates having his photo taken! (If that’s the case, maybe he shouldn’t be living in a house full of photographers, but you do you, Amemura.) To the surprise of no one who’s ever read a manga, Amemura is shockingly hot when he takes off his glasses and brushes his emo hair out his eyes. And it’s even less surprising that Kei, who also lives in Lens Inn, doesn’t take kindly to Mako making a new male best friend.

As of Volume 1, Love in Focus (Japanese title Renzu-Sou no Sankaku, “Triangle of Lens Inn”) is a manga without surprises. The central love triangle is as basic as it gets, with Mako torn between a nice blond childhood friend and a sulky brunet bad boy while not getting particularly worked up over either option. Other good-looking young men representing familiar harem manga types are dropped into the mix, including a handsome, supportive photography teacher and a “sparkly Prince Charming” jetting in from France. A couple of female characters are introduced and mostly ignored. Mako takes pictures of things she likes to look at and they turn out great. Amemura is revealed to have a dark secret, but not very dark. And so on.

If it’s not the most exciting manga, the familiar formulas are competently and agreeably executed, and the characters’ mild adventures make for a pleasant afternoon read. The art is similarly simple, unremarkable, but attractive. If the male characters are unexceptional stock types, at least the heroine has a lively personality, and her photography ambitions provide an interesting angle on the standard high school plot, not to mention stylish shots of her hiking around town with her camera around her neck. The overall mood of the manga is of a friendly desire to please. Criticizing it too harshly would be like kicking the boarding house’s cute dog.

publisher: Kodansha
story and art: Yoko Nogiri
rating: T

This story appears in the October 2019 issue of Otaku USA Magazine. Click here to get a print copy.