If you read the sinopsis, you'll probably think that you have read something like this like 213123 times before and that it's another cliché yaoi story.
Yep, I also thought that... But let me say this: it isn't.
First of all, the "yaoi" etiquete is wrong. This isn't yaoi; this is a very sweet and realistic shounen-ai. This story is about finding the true meaning of feelings, about how music can reach people, and connect them.
The art style is beautiful, charaters' design and dramatic scenes are very well-done.
Characters can seem typical but they hide feelings you don't expect and a dramatic past.
there are only a few chapters out, they're worth your time and if you'll read them you'll be biting your nails for the next chapters to be out. :)
I really cannot recommend this manga enough! I just happened to chance upon a mangacap of it on Tumblr and the author was so good at expressing her characters, that even without the text bubbles, I could tell that the 2 MCs were in love from a single panel.
If you enjoy plots that centralize on music, realism & complex characters (and their developments) and have no qualms about the shounen-ai relationships, you will probably enjoy this immensely. It's accompanied by good story-telling & art direction too.
-- No.6 | Even though the world setting is quite fantastical, it's similar in the sense that the
2 MCs of No.6 also build their relationship over time. (Although it's not really that straightforward for them)
-- Umibe No Etranger/Harukaze No Extranger || this manga tackles homosexuality head on, and it doesn't shy away from the reality that people in Japan shuns homosexuals. The two MCs in this manga are aware of their situation, and yet, we still follow their normal mundane lives. In Given, although just a few panels, the daily lives of our MCs somehow reminded me of this manga and is just as real about love (& homosexuality?) as Given is.
Without spoiling much, the story was a ride from beginning to end.
It starts off in an ordinary high school setting where our first 2 MCs meet & we learn more about Uenoyama. Mafuyu asks him to teach him music and Ueno is unwilling, but eventually, he joins Ueno's band. They also happen to find out Mafuyu's a great singer and the band decides to try their hand at vocal music for once.
It's a pretty straight-forward plot until Chapter 4.
Chapter 4 is when the story starts to feel more organic and real-to-life, and the story-telling gets even better as well. One of Kizu Natsuki's strongest points is conveying emotion through her character. She will do whatever it takes to get her characters across to her audience and I really applaud her for that.
For example, there are also a few panels where the characters don't show up. Instead, we see the environment around them - this is especially prominent whenever Mafuyu takes a more active role in the story (like initiating a chat with Ueno, etc.) Mafuyu is a quiet boy, so seeing the environment through his eyes with a lack of any focal point in the panel really helps it make it easier for us to understand how quiet he is.
The art in Given reminds me of the art in The King's Avatar. It's as if each panel was drawn like an anime storyboard. Simple yet detailed, and when there's a panel that needs to be emphasized (like that dramatic moment or when it's a flashback), it's drawn as beautifully as you would have expected if you were watching an anime.
The panels, sometimes, can get flooded with text (especially like the sound effects, when translated into English is longer than the actual word in Japanese) but Kizu Natsuki mostly uses these sfx or out-of-bubble text during comedic scenes, which is ok for me.
Out of our 4 MCs, it's hard to choose a favorite because they're all so diverse and likable. They're also all quite realistic, despite how quirky some of them can be (Akihiko & Mafuyu AHEM) and honestly, I just found myself rooting for all of these 4 guys even if some of them make odd decisions.
Firstly, for Uenoyama and Mafuyu, they're both high school students and are actually the main focus for the whole manga, with a lot of emphases placed on them for about 10-11 chapters-ish. The growth of their relationship is slow and steady as well, and even when the focus starts moving over to the older pair (Akihiko & Haruki), their relationship slowly builds in the background.
For Akihiko & Haruki, from the beginning, we're already introduced Haruki's plain obvious crush on Akihiko but it doesn't really go anywhere until after a few certain events. Honestly, if you're reading the translations, there isn't much explained in the recent chapters (13), but in the raws after that chapter, their relationship actually progresses in an entirely different manner than you would have thought.
Lastly, the supporting cast, they hardly show up but when you do, you'll realize how small the world is between the 4 MCs. I do appreciate them because some of them get some backstories/development that are worthy of a spin-off!
Final Verdict (10)
Honestly, this was my 1st shounen-ai manga I've read and I wouldn't say it's really my all-time favorite but it's clear that the author/artist is masterful in their work because of how well-put the manga was.
The story-telling was better than some shounen manga I've read and the plot is fresh as it focuses its attention towards the characters' motives, changing feelings and stories, instead of the over-arching plot of music & the common shounen theme of 'getting better' in music. But that doesn't mean music is just there for the sake of it - Kizu Natsuki knows how to integrate all the genres together and make it into one cohesive and realistic story that will leave you wanting more.