Stolen Hearts Volume 1 by Miku Sakamoto
I bought this volume purely because of the cover image. A cute girl in a kimono has her mouth open in an “O” of surprise, while a red-haired boy lurks ominously in the background. At school Shinobu spills milk on a bag belonging to Koguma, the intimidating tough guy in her class. He announces that the bag contains a kimono and says that Shinobu has to work off her debt. He drags her to his grandmother’s kimono shop and she’s given the job of dressing up in the shop’s youth line and handing out leaflets. As Shinobu spends time with Koguma she realizes that his fearsome reputation is unearned. He’s actually a big softie, and he goes out of his way to take care of her while they are working.
Many other reviews of the book have mentioned the awesome character of Koguma’s granny. It is fabulous seeing her boss Koguma around, and the intimidating boy at school automatically becomes a compliant little lamb around his grandmother. It seems that she must have quite a past, judging by the way the local mafia is so solicitous of her grandson.
Sakamoto obviously spent a great deal of time researching kimono design. Her facility with facial expressions ensures that Koguma is an interesting male lead with the way he switches from his usual mode of inadvertent intimidation to bashful boyfriend. Shinobu is very direct for a shoujo heroine. She comments to Koguma that he looks handsome in a kimono, causing him to blush. When she realizes that she has feelings for him she just comes out and says that she’s fallen in love, “so I hope it’s ok if I stay by your side.” The couple start dating in the first volume of the manga, which is nice because some shoujo series take several volumes for the couple to get together. Since Koguma and Shinobu are so busy with work, their relationship progresses slowly. The workplace setting adds another layer of enjoyment to this manga. After reading so many series that are just set in high school, the extra plot point of kimono sales turns even stock plot developments like a school festival story fun. Stolen Hearts is yet another fun, under the radar shoujo series from CMX. They really seem to have a knack for finding unexpected gems to license.