Manga Review: Love Mode (vol 11)

"Finally, winter came...  But our days didn't change.  Every day was... so much fun.  So very fun.  I thought we'd be... able to spend our days... like this forever.  That is... until that moment." - Aoe

This volume marks the end of the Love Mode series, and takes us back to where it all began.  The character of Shiki, who was hinted at many times throughout the series, is introduced here and the back story between Takamiya, Aoe, and Shiki is finally revealed.  The book opens with a younger Aoe, who travels to England to stay away from his father and family home.  He meets Takamiya and is invited to stay with him and Takamiya's father-figure and close friend, Shiki.  Through spending time with the two of them, Aoe realizes that he is capable of being happy, really and truly happy, and is able to forget his problems for a time.  When a series of events begin to unfold, Aoe comes find that he can no longer run from his past and responsibilities, and has to give up the happiness and quiet life he had found in the countryside.  The main story and flashback scene ends after the accident that would change the lives of both Aoe and Takamiya forever.  There is an epilogue that brings the series to an end, where Aoe and Takamiya bring Naoya and Izumi to the home they shared when they lived with Shiki, and the book ends with the two long time friends content with the happiness that they have been able to find.

Although I am sad that this series is over, I really couldn't have asked for a more satisfying ending.  I felt that it was a very fitting conclusion to an amazing series, and although there were still some things left up in the air, it really brought a sense of closure and left me happy when I was finished reading.  After being alluded to for so long, Shiki really had a lot to live up to, and I think that the author did a great job in making him a very strong and lasting presence in Takamiya and Aoe's lives.  It was interesting to see how the three of them were and then how certain events shaped them into the men that they would end up being.  I thought that the scene when they brought Izumi and Naoya on the trip to England was very moving.  Even though they were happy together, it seemed like a new beginning for both couples, where they could let go of the past and move on to a brighter future.

Yuki Shimizu never fails to impress me with her storytelling abilities, and this book was certainly no exception.  She just has such a talent that can pull the reader in from the very first page and not let go until long after you've finished reading.  These books really stick with me and I really appreciate what she has done with them.  Even though I normally prefer my books to focus on one couple, I really thought the way the books shifted from character to character or pairing to pairing was a very effective way of telling the story.  It really gave a lot of room for character development and it was interesting to see some characters and situations from different points of view.  Kiichi, for instance, was a character that just drove me up the wall in the early books.  However, when his turn in the spotlight rolled around, I ended up really liking him a lot, to the point where he is now my favorite character.  And even though Aoe and Naoya will never be my favorite couple, I really appreciate their scenes together and was glad that they were able to find happiness together.

Love Mode is an exceptionally good series that I have had a wonderful time reading, and I'm sure I will continue to enjoy re-reading.  It will always have a place on my shelf, and I highly, highly recommend it.  It's amazing to see how far it's come from that very first volume, and I couldn't be more satisfied with the ending.  It is really bittersweet to see it come to an end, but I think that is the mark of a great book.

- Liz