Stolen Hearts Volume 1
Those attracted to manga for its air of exoticism will find this cute shojo romance especially entertaining. In Stolen Hearts by Miku Sakamoto, Shinobu works as a kimono model, demonstrating some very attractive fabrics and patterns, while finding love with the scariest boy in class.
After an accidental encounter, Shinobu is dragged to the kimono shop run by Koguma’s grandmother. Koguma is tall, silent, and has a dangerous reputation. He’s also named after a cuddly bear cub, providing a hint that his looks aren’t necessarily the best way to judge him. Grandma needed a girl to model the shop’s wares in order to attract younger customers and overcome the image they have of kimonos as fusty and old-fashioned. Notice the theme? Nothing in this series is exactly what it seems, and every new revelation is a pleasant surprise.
Grandma is one of the best parts of the series. She’s determined and makes things happen, with a snap in her voice and attitude. She’d requested Koguma find her a model among his school friends, but his reputation meant that he couldn’t ask any of the girls, because everyone was scared of him. Thus, fate brought the large boy and tiny girl together, making for a mismatched but emotionally well-suited pair. She humanizes him when they hand out flyers together, making him seem less fearsome.
She sees parts of him no one else has gotten close enough to notice, while he takes care of and encourages her. The two quickly pair up, making for fun, heart-warming stories where Shinobu wants to show her friends what she sees in Koguma at a neighborhood festival, or the two try to have their first date while being expected to work together. The two take such simple pleasure in small gestures, like holding hands on a cold day, that I find the stories both entertaining and comforting. Plus, I enjoyed learning more about kimono styles and traditions. A very pleasant read. (The publisher provided a review copy.)