Title:15 Minutes Before We Really Date Vol. 1 Author: Perico Publisher: Yen Press Language: English Format: Paperback Pages: 164 Genre: Slice-of-Life, Romance Publication Date: November 21, 2023
The story for 15 Minutes Before We Really Date isn’t deep or complex. Two childhood friends decided to start dating. That’s it. That’s the story.
The volume essentially explores their time starting out as a couple, getting used to doing couple things, all while dispelling a rumor about them at school. Since they’d been childhood friends for ten years, everyone thought that they were dating already; however, that was never the case. Natsuha, the girl, one day blurts out that they should break up; however, Yuuki, the guy, is confused since they have never been dating in the first place. That leads to them going out.
We explore bite-sized stories of them huddling together in the rain, going to see a movie, or having a study session. Each chapter is only a couple of pages long but the overarching story is them getting used to being a couple after being childhood friends for ten years. At least, so far.
When it comes to character work, I can’t truly say that there is much to Natsuha and Yuuki as characters.
Yuuki is pretty laid-back. So much so that his idea of asking Natsuha out is “Fine, I’m down. You wanna date?” A real romantic, if you ask me. Despite his laid-back attitude, Yuuki does have some worries such as when and how to kiss her. While that’s cute, he erases it by being a bit blunt and forward… such in preparation for their first date, he just tells Natsuha to get dolled up. It’s obvious that he’s still used to them being childhood friends and is a bit clueless as to how to act around women; however, he is aware of his own cluelessness and does think about how to rectify that, stumbling along the way. He’s a bit of a mixed bag in that department but outside of that, there’s really not much to him.
The same could be said for Natsuha. She’s about as blunt and straightforward as Yuuki which is why the two of them work so well together; however, she does have some moments where she gets overly embarrassed. Even though she hasn’t shown it, she has had a crush on Yuuki for a long time and she is ecstatic that the two of them are finally dating.
The problem here is that these are simply nuances. We don’t get much detail about their individual likes and interests as characters and I think that’s where the development suffers. Sure, personality is a big part of development but it seems as if that’s all we got. Other than their quirks, they came off as two characters who simply exist and interact with each other. I was hoping for a little more depth and flavor but despite the differences in their personalities, they both came off as flat.
I can only hope that this works itself out as things progress. This is the feeling out stage when it comes to dating for them so as they get more comfortable, perhaps we can see some more unique sides or facets to them. For now, they just “exist.”
We did get some side characters such as Kayo who is Natsuha’s friend and Nishi who is Yuuki’s friend. Sadly, that’s all I can tell you about them because they’re around for a page or two and sink into the background. We do get introduced to Kayoko, who is Natsuha’s best friend from middle school and she does play a slightly larger part during some flashbacks… mainly as support for Natusha’s unconfessed love but that’s about it with her, too.
The only side character that actually goes anywhere is Nao, Yuuki’s little sister. She’s mischievous and decides to go spy on her big brother as he goes on his first date with Natsuha. There, she bumps into Sousuke, a friend of hers who went off to private school (or rather, he bumped into her.) Seems as if they have a love interest in each other and decide to sort of act upon it.
To be honest, while the series was cute, it was a bit of a rocky start for me. Even though Yuuki and Natsuha have their own personalities, they come off as very direct towards each other… at least at first. Their conversations are blunt and pivot on a dime. It kind of reminds me of Pulp Fiction-style dialogue. Very short bursts of words that change constantly but are in relation to one another. As the volume progresses, it lessens which creates a feeling of the tension lifting which is a good thing but everything just feels so flat.
The minor differences in their personalities aren’t really enough to carry them as characters. There’s no hook or true depth to them and most of the side characters feel more like plot devices or conveniences whenever a scene needs an extra body rather than being important. The Nao/Sousuke part was the only real depth we got out of a growing introductory cast… which is a bit of a problem.
Another issue I took with the series is it lacks a “Show, don’t tell” approach. I didn’t need to be reminded at the start of every single chapter that they had been childhood friends and began dating after ten years. I got it after the first chapter. Also, some of the narrative boxes flat out tell you “on the way home” when they are clearly on a train or “This story is from way back…” when all you need to do is use blackened borders like every other manga to indicate it’s a flashback. Little things like that break immersion when the artwork is supposed to get those points across. If this was someone’s first manga, I can see that being fine but for me, who is approaching 1500 total volumes of manga read, it just feels dumbed down and unnecessary.
But, this is a first volume and that means there is always room for improvement. The positive takeaway from this series is that it’s a subtle, cute story. There’s no drama, no love triangles, no dark mysterious past, no dead parents, no stalkers, none of that. It’s a simple story and oftentimes simple stories work best. From a concept standpoint, there is nothing wrong with this series. I like the premise and the execution of the premise is spot on. The execution of the characters; however, is where my issues lie but, again, it’s a first volume and character flaws often work themselves out as time goes on which is why I’m hopeful. I do want to read more as I want to see how they cope with dating each other after 10 years of being friends. I want to see the steps they take and watch them grow as a couple.
So, even with my gripes, it’s not a bad series but so far, it’s not something that’s at the top of the best romance manga I’ve read list either. Hopefully, in time, it can change my mind. I’m excited to see if it will.
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