Venus in Love by Yuki Nakaji (amazon)
Venus in Love has all the trappings of a typical shoujo story, but the combination of characters and good humor ensure that I’ll be following this new series from CMX. Suzuna is a new college student who is excited to live on her own for the first time. She speculates that she’ll find love with the new neighbors in her apartment building, and visits them with her little brother and some tasty dumplings. Unfortunately to one side of her new place lives a frightening otaku who announces that she looks just like “Miracle Mako Chan”. The answer to her knock on the next door is a loud voice yelling “No newspaper subscriptions!” It ends up being a cute boy named Eichi who promptly gives her the name “Poodle” due to her hairstyle. Eichi and Suzuna end up bonding over take out meals from the convenience store.
Suzuna’s best friend at school is Hinako, a popular and vivacious girl who used to go to high school with Eichi. Eichi refused to go out with Hinako when they were in high school, claiming that he wasn’t interested in girls. Eichi’s closest friend is Fukami, a handsome and talented tennis player. The foursome strengthen their friendship when the girls join Fukami’s tennis club. Suzuna quickly develops a crush on Fukami, but she’s surprised when she discovers that Eichi likes him too. She calmly accepts him as her rival in love, vowing not to lose to him. She tells him that he’s free to love anyone he wants.
The four friends survive drinking games, a trip to the country, a club fund raiser, setting up their schedules, and mercenary practices involving class notes. Suzuna and Eichi develop a teasing relationship, bantering back and forth about their mutual crush on Fukami. The art has a bit of a vintage look to it (the first volume came out in Japan in the late 90s), but it does capture the enthusiasm of the characters as they throw themselves into college life. I hope the later volumes of this manga follow-up on the promise of the first.