PopTalk continues to review the ongoing manga series World's Greatest First Love, now delving into the complete second volume which is available now by Sublime. Did the follow up volume maintain it's strengths? Find out our thoughts below.
Aedan : In the Sublime manga series World's Greatest First Love, we met Ritsu Onondera, the son of a prestigious publishing company. After relocating to establish himself as a capable editor, he ends up in the shojo manga department at Marukawa publishing, to his initial dismay. Things only got more complicated when Ritsu realizes his boss is none other than his first love in high school, Masamune Takano. The first volume establishes their complex history, but barely scratches the surface to the ongoing and turbulent dynamic between Takano and Ritsu until we jump into the second volume. When we pick up, we return to the flashback of their high school fling, when a meek Ritsu reflects on his deep love for Takano despite not having a close personal relationship, and we cut to present day where Ritsu debates his current frustrations for Takano, and the two bicker vastly differing from years ago.
I like the occasional reminders of their history; with every memory introduced we learn a little more about their back-story which is always more complicated than meets the eye. This repartee between the two is a fun way to watch them mask their emotions, but there of course are moments where you want to shake (mostly Ritsu) and say “Notice the signs!” Early on in the second volume, we find an employee from sales named Takafumi Yokozawa who tries to immediately ward of Ritsu from Takano. He tells him that “Masamune is mine” and leaves for the time being which causes Ritsu to sit and stew on the situation. Ritsu takes it upon himself to dig up information on Yokozawa, and determines the two have been very close since college, around the time they stopped being a part of each others daily lives. Shortly after, Takano takes another chance and kisses Ritsu which bothers Ritsu because of not knowing what is exactly between Takano and Yokozawa (as well as questioning his sexuality). Takano may not be the most outspoken person, but he does directly show his compassion for Ritsu and at times his reluctance makes you (or me) irritated with his heard-headed views. A later interaction between Ritsu and Yokozawa explains that Ritsu had disappeared from Takano’s life, leaving Takano heartbroken for long after his departure. In conjunction to this reveal, it is also stated that Ritsu was in fact engaged prior to their fling in high school. How’s that for drama?
The interesting part of the story between Takano and Ritsu is the fact that they work side by side on a day to day basis. Working with someone you care for can bring out emotions of irritation or vexation, but at the same time they use it to add depth to their feelings. Takano makes it known that he pushed Ritsu further and further because he knows he has the dedication and ability needed to get the job done at whatever cost necessary. When Ritsu has a moment where he thinks of transferring to the companies literature department, he receives an accolade from a manga creator and Takano only makes it more important by sharing his admiration for Ritsu. In that moment, Ritsu realizes how much his approval means to him, and how fulfilling his work is and stays outside of his comfort zone to see what could develop. Finally, Ritsu!
The two have a run-in at one point at the library, which is a reminder of their previous library meet-ups from before. In an attempt to flee and divert any real interaction, Ritsu injures himself like a true spaz and Takano tends to him to assist. This is another example of Ritsu trying to mask his true emotions regarding Takano, but it takes a quick turn when Takano makes his move. The two end up sleeping together (for the first time in years) and Ritsu abandons all of his concerns to have a truly intimate moment with Takano. In the series, Takano, a typically blunt character, goes out of his way to try and gain the attention of Ritsu and in their moment of passion they so clearly love one another. With a protective Yokozawa in the picture, and Ritsu and Takano going through the trials and tribulations of their own emotions, things are sure to get more complex for the pairing in upcoming volumes.
The art continues to impress me, as one of the more intricate examples of manga art. It translates as a serious and dramatic romance that also can evoke laughter and lightheartedness by images alone. The writing elaborates more on the history between these two, and properly builds on the tension established in the first volume. World’s Greatest First Love is an impressive series and the fact that it has already claimed the number one spot on the New York Times manga best-seller list is completely justified. My inner romantic can’t wait to find out the future stories of Ritsu, Takano, and the other cast of characters we have only begun to see.
+Pros: The romance. It may have its trivial sappy moments from time to time, but overall the romantic aspect is what is guaranteed to keep readers coming back to see how things pan out. Takano is definitely one of the more complex and mysterious characters to the series, and even when he’s short tempered you have a sense of understanding and/or compassion for him given his complicated life.
-Cons: I don’t have many…but I’ll try to be precise. I do enjoy Ritsu, as he represents a self conscious character who questions love, but his objections do manage to feel tedious on occasion. I also hope to get a chance to see more of the surrounding characters to remind us everyone isn’t as hard-headed as Ritsu.
Amrita: Volume 2 of The World’s Greatest First Love expands upon Ritsu’s job while solidifying his ever-growing denial about his feelings for Takano. At the first volumes end, Ritsu declared what he was feeling for Takano simply couldn’t be love and this thought process of his continues on throughout the second volume. I must admit, Ritsu’s monologues wore me down and I found myself sighing in annoyance more often than not. Ritsu denies having any sort of feelings for Takano, claiming he’s his boss and he’s also a man. The constant emphasis that Ritsu puts on Takano’s gender got quite irritating because he had no problem excepting Takano back in high school; hell, Ritsu wasn’t the type to bare notice on to one’s gender so having him grow up to be this way regresses his character development a tad bit. It’s understandable that Ritsu is digging up any excuse he can to detach himself from Takano, but isn’t it hypocritical of Ritsu to claim Takano’s gender as a reason for not loving him? We get further glimpses of Ritsu from the past and despite his full blown stalker status, I found the old Ritsu endearing and sweet. I hope to see aspects of the old Ritsu emerge in the Ritsu of the present.
Volume 2 also conjures up a heap load of misunderstandings from Ritsu thinking Takano is a player to Ritsu assuming Takano is dating Yokozawa. Ritsu claims to not care, but he constantly gets jealous when he observes Takano with Yokozawa or anyone really. Takano has his fair share of jealous moments as well, but he indirectly brings his concerns to Ritsu instead of holding it in. Ritsu makes quite a lot of assumptions throughout the second volume yet he never speaks directly to Takano about these matters because Ritsu believes Takano is “playing with him.” Yet another pathway of Ritsu’s logic I couldn’t quite understand especially since Takano has told him on multiple occasions that he loves him and even clarified that Yokozawa was just a friend. Despite Takano’s words, Ritsu continues his journey down denial avenue!
Yokozawa had more than a few words of warning for Ritsu. He puts his claim on Takano and its revealed that Ritsu had a fiancé while he was dating Takano in high school, which was the volumes biggest twist. Ritsu doesn’t deny having a fiancé, but he does try to clarify that he didn’t cheat on Takano. Yokozawa doesn’t care for Ritsu’s excuses and shuts him down swiftly on two separate occasions. Now, readers may find Yokozawa annoying, rude and even meddlesome, but I truly appreciate the character of Yokozawa because he’s unknowingly forcing Ritsu to confront feelings he’s trying to run away from. Ritsu has developed feelings of unease and jealousy towards Yokozawa’s relationship with Takano, slowly making him realize that his feelings for Takano are very much alive. Yokozawa also takes exceptional care of Takano and watches out for him like any good friend should; he’s also suffering from unrequited love which makes me empathize with him even more.
My favorite aspect of the 2nd volume of The World’s Greatest First Love was the exploration and expansion of Ritsu’s job and establishing Takano as Ritsu’s boss. Takano has his fair share of lovey dovey moments, where he forces his affection onto Ritsu however; one of the volumes strong suits is Takano’s stance as Ritsu’s boss. Takano does not go easy on Ritsu and expects the best out of him just like all the others placed under his charge. He gives Ritsu brutally honest advice while making him feel accomplished and talented at the same time. Takano provides a perfect balance and although he may often come across as harsh and unkind, he’s the complete opposite, striving to make himself and the others around him produce work at its highest potential and quality.
I also loved Ritsu’s inner dialogue in regards to his struggle to accept his position as a shojo manga editor despite wanting to work in the literature department. Ritsu doubts his ability as a manga editor and constantly second guesses his decisions which is quite relatable because I do the same exact thing. Ritsu, hands down, annoys me more than any other character in the manga and yet he’s also the most relatable because we see the world through his eyes. We, as the readers, are aware of his emotions and the reasoning behind his every action. I may not like or understand Ritsu’s way of handling his emotions for Takano, but I can completely understand the feelings of doubt and fear present in Ritsu’s mind for his job.
I had two favorite moments in this volume. The first has to be Ritsu sitting in on the print-run meeting along with Takano, Yokozawa and other higher-ups. Ritsu expects a professional and positive atmosphere and what he gets is everyone aggressively flinging insults at each other while trying to get what they want. While all this is happening, Isaka (the Marukawa Publishing Executive Director) is smiling away, watching the figurative bloodbath unfold while Ritsu sits quietly in his seat trying to comprehend what’s happening before him. It was a hilarious segment that added extra insight to how things worked around Marukawa. My second favorite moment is of course a romantic one between Takano and Ritsu. Ritsu answers a call from one of the authors he’s managing after almost going “all the way” with Takano. He gestures at Takano to leave and Takano does, but not before softly kissing Ritsu’s cheek. Ritsu is a blushing mess and is left momentarily speechless. This was a cute and subtle moment between the two and was another clear indicator as to how much Takano’s actions affect and influence Ritsu.
Overall, the 2nd volume of The World’s Greatest First Love was as good as the 1st and fans of the previous volume will certainly enjoy the latest addition.
+Pros: Further exploration of Ritsu’s job as a manga editor and his feelings of doubt and insecurity towards said job. Takano is portrayed as Ritsu’s boss first and foremost, giving him tough love and advice on the manga publishing industry. This volume also kept up the humorous aspect, which was much appreciated! There was more of Yokozawa, which to me is always a good thing.
-Cons: Ritsu’s inner monologues tend to get repetitious when it comes to Takano. In several instances, Takano came off quite forceful; I hope to see a much more subtle approach, such as the kiss on the cheek. The side characters (Ritsu’s co-workers) hardly get any dialogue and it would be nice to see those characters get flushed out more. I’m biased towards the side characters, Kisa in particular, because I enjoyed their presence and storylines in the anime.
Overall Score: 8/10