Story & Art by Natsuki Kizu
Translated by Junko Goda
Design by Jimmy Presler
Edited by Leyla Aker
Touch-up Art & Lettering by Sabrina Heep
While manga is a predominantly visual art form, it hasn’t stopped titles focused on music from having the spotlight. Among the recent successes in this trend is Given, a BL drama whose anime adaptation gained immense acclaim last year. With SuBLime having now released the manga’s first volume in English, it’s time to take a look at what the series has to offer in its original form.
Given centers on high school student and guitarist Ritsuka Uenoyama, as he encounters his classmate Mafuyu Sato, a reserved boy who wants to learn how to play music. Reluctantly, Ritsuka decides to help Mafuyu, introducing him to his band and starting their emotional journey together.
At first glance, Ritsuka and Mafuyu feel like polar opposites. While Ritsuka has blunt mannerisms, Mafuyu is incredibly reserved. That said, their conflicting traits are what allow their relationship to deepen. Ritsuka is drawn to Mafuyu’s mysterious nature and natural talent, making him ponder what drives Mafuyu to learn music. Meanwhile, Mafuyu finds interest in Ritsuka’s passion for music and his ability to express himself in the medium. Their mutual interest serves as a bridge for these two boys to interact with each other, allowing them to find a deeper meaning to their relationship in the process.
Through Ritsuka and Mafuyu’s bond, the series also explores the significance of emotional awareness. As the secrets of Mafuyu’s past begin to unravel, Ritsuka is forced to confront his unknown feelings for him. It’s a wonderful portrayal of adolescent self-discovery, having Ritsuka question what makes him so attached to Mafuyu in the first place.
The core piece that ties Given’s narrative together is music. While music itself is difficult to convey in manga, the series uses the element as a direct expression of the characters themselves. This is in part possible thanks to Kizu’s gorgeous artwork, showcasing the musical performances with lush detail. Whenever music is played in the story, the manga draws its focus towards the musicians and their composure while performing. It helps establish that these songs are a reflection of the musicians and their emotional state. Despite no sound being present, you can understand what each composition tries to evoke and their personal significance. The manga also brings attention to how people react to the music around them. Whether it’s Mafuyu being blown away by Ritsuka’s practice session with his band, or Ritsuka being enthralled with Mafuyu’s singing, the series captures the unparalleled awe of music. Given presents music as a beautiful medium that allows people to express themselves creatively.
Between its compelling relationships and expressive artwork, there is a lot to love about Given. The first volume leaves off in a dramatic point within the story, with Mafuyu attempting to face his past trauma and Ritsuka coming to realize his true feelings. This is a title that you shouldn’t skip out on, and it will be exciting to see how the story continues.