My Love Mix-Up! Vol. 1 opens with the line, "This is a slightly silly love story about some good, eager high-school kids." This is an accurate description of what follows, but it's Viz Media's content disclaimer on the second-to-last page that might be an even stronger indicator of what this series is like. While Viz Media's parental advisory warnings usually mention sex, violence or other sorts of "mature" content, the caption after the recommendation for teens aged 13 and up here simply states: "No cinnamon rolls were harmed in the making of this manga."
This tells readers a lot; both that the characters in the story are "cinnamon rolls" and that this story is meant for people who already use the phrase "cinnamon roll" to describe their favorite characters who are "too good for this world, too pure." That's an accurate assessment of My Love Mix-Up!'s three leads, Aoki, Ida and Hashimoto, as well as the general tone of the series. My Love Mix-Up! is pure shojo romance fluff; nothing in its first volume stands out as problematic in any way that could shut down the wholesome feels delivered by first-time manga author Wataru Hinekure and artist Aruko.
The story starts off as a love triangle with a queer-inclusive twist, almost like a shojo equivalent of the groundbreaking shonen romance Blue Flag. Aoki is in love with Hashimoto, the girl who sits next to him in class, but when he borrows Ida's eraser, he notices she's written Ida's name on it and assumes she's into him. Ida sees Aoki with the eraser and assumes it's Aoki who's into him -- and it quickly becomes clear that Aoki is into Ida. How does Aoki feel about all this, and will there be further mix-ups that make this whole situation more complicated?
Aruko is the artist behind the similarly wholesome shojo romance My Love Story!! Unfortunately, the review copy's reduced visual quality makes it harder to fairly judge the art (Viz's public preview pages have much more vibrant lines and detailed shading than the review copy). However, two things we can say about the art are that it's much more focused on characters than backgrounds, which are often nonexistent, and that Aruko continues to draw great hilarious facial expressions.
Boys love fans will find a lot to enjoy about My Love Mix-Up! However, it's noteworthy that the series has not been marketed as BL but rather as mainstream shojo. A series with gay and bi lead characters getting this treatment is definitely a positive thing, and the manga as a whole is brimming with positivity -- a quality that makes it stand out. It's not the most original manga in the world -- the Cinderella play scene will likely get shojo fans thinking about how Fruits Basket handled a similar scenario much more memorably. It is, however, inclusive and high-quality feel-good fluff, and sometimes, that's all you really need.
My Love Mix-Up! is now on sale from Viz Media.