As a subgenre of manga, boys love (or yaoi) has a wide spectrum of content. It is (mostly) romantic in nature, although there are industry-wide issues in portrayals of consent and LGBTQ+ representation. Some titles are chaste romances, some are sexually explicit. Plot quality varies widely, as does the art. But once in a while, a gem emerges from the genre that layers a well done plot, great character development, and beautiful artwork in a compelling romance that feels real. Given is one of those gems.

In Given, artist and writer Natsuki Kizu tells the story of the members of a band by the same name. High schooler Mafuyu, a quiet, withdrawn, young man carries around an expensive Gibson guitar that he doesn’t know how to play. When he meets classmate Uenoyama, a naturally gifted musician, he begs Uenoyama to teach him. Although Ueonyama is a brilliant guitarist, he balks. As his skill and experience has grown, his inspiration and interest have faded—and not only in music, but other activities he loves. But this strange boy is determined and relentless. Something about him drives Uenoyama to take him to a band practice where he introduces Mafuyu to his older bandmates. Laid-back bassist, Haruki and playboy drummer Akihiko are in college.

Mafuyu, whose withdrawn personality is hiding deep, emotional secrets, throws himself into learning the guitar and even gets a part time job, in order to earn money for his new hobby. Uenoyama becomes more and more fascinated by the shy boy. Uenoyama’s interest in music starts to return. But when he hears Mafuyu’s voice sing a melody, it sparks a fire of inspiration and he begs him to join the band. By watching Mafuyu’s talent bloom, Uenoyama rediscovers his love for music, and possibly for Mafuyu. There is unresolved sexual tension between the older band members so this series has a lot of room to branch out with the drama.

The musical instruments are rendered beautifully, and there is a lot of gorgeous action in the music scenes. The only thing this story lacks is sound. Fortunately, the series has been made into an anime series with a soulful soundtrack to match the dramatic story line.

This first volume of Given is off to a great start. It’s published by Viz Media’s boy love imprint, SuBLime, and on an ever-growing list of titles, this one ranks very high. I am careful about recommending boys’ love titles for teens but Given is similar to I Hear the Sunspot, with it’s sweet, romantic story line. It’s less explicit than SuBLime’s slice-of-life, college story, Escape Journey. It’s rated for older teens (16+) and is a great acquisition for a YA or adult manga collection. With the success of the television anime, a sequel theatrical film release featuring the older characters will be released later this year by a new boys love studio, Blue Lynx.

Given Volume 1
By Natsuki Kizu
ISBN: 9781974711826
SuBLime, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: 16+
Series Reading Order: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Given_(manga) (Wikipedia or Goodreads)

Browse for more like this title
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+)
Character Traits: Japanese Gay

  • Lisa P.

    | She/Her Library Associate in Youth Services

    Reviewer/Editor

    Lisa is a library professional and part-time comic shop employee in Central Wisconsin.

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