24 Colors ~Hatsukoi no Palette~ volume 1
Also written as: 24Colors~初恋のパレット
Author: Kozue Chiba
Originally serialized in Shoujo Comic; tankoubon published by the Flower Comics imprint
Nanaka loves to paint. So when she enters high school, she gets excited at the prospect of jointing the arts club. However, there are only two members-- the mysterious Chihaya and the energetic Kento. They're both good-looking guys, and Chihaya shares Nanaka's love for painting!
I suppose this review could count as a License Line post as well, since none of the manga publishers in North America that print shoujo manga had decided to even give 24 Colors a second thought - even though it would be right up Shoujo Beat's alley, cough cough. There’s no risk in licensing it! It’s only one volume, it’s a self-contained story, and if it sold well enough, one could license some of Kozue Chiba’s other works – like the often lauded 7th Period Is A Secret, which was immensely popular when it first came out and for good reason. But this isn’t about 7th Period, this is about 24 Colors, a story about first love and art among young people.
Nanaka is an aspiring artist who has just entered high school and has decided to join the art club thanks to a suggestion from her best friend Meiko. The first morning of her high school life, she sees a mysterious (and cute) boy walk across campus – a boy covered in paint. His name is Chihaya, and not only is he a painter and a member of the art club but he just might end up being Nanaka’s first love. Problem is, Chihaya isn’t the talkative type; he’s closed off to all but his friend, the very amped-up Kento, and he can only express himself through his art. When the art club is assigned to create a sign for the school festival, the forced constant proximity between the quiet Chihaya and the love-struck Nanaka may end in romance or bittersweet heartache.
I would not normally review something unlicensed, but this manga demands to be licensed. Rarely has a shoujo manga in one volume captured my heart and strung me along page by page as 24 Colors has. The thing about this manga is that it is gorgeous; Kozue Chiba’s artwork is just visually stunning and contains a lot of standard shoujo tropes (walking through cherry blossoms, dramatic spreads of one panel scenes, highly textured emotional moments) while twisting them about into something unique. Plus, everything is about art. This manga never forgets it is a story about art students trying to create something beautiful on a canvas together.
Another wonderful thing about 24 Colors that just works is the fact that none of the main characters are complete people – as in, they are still finding themselves and trying to figure out what they actually want. There is nothing interesting about people who are complete – those without flaws or problems that are completely in control of their lives – falling in love because there is usually no conflict, no inner dialogue about is this what I really want or can I love this person without knowing who I am first – things that sound terribly cliché at first but create interesting drama in the course of a love story because that is how it works in real life. Nanaka wants to be an artist – or does she? She thinks she’s in love with Chihaya, but who is he? Nanaka thinks she understands the hearts or her friends, but has she misjudged their feelings completely? Like the palette in the title, these things color each scene, making Nanaka’s conflicts feel more authentic, more likely to draw us in further as a reader.
I’ve rambled on for a bit about 24 Colors but I think it’s time to draw this teal dear post to a close, non? There seems to be a serious lack of shoujo manga in the North American market that isn’t magical girls, love triangles cloaked in melodrama, or just flat out drama for the sake of drama. Few shoujo available in English are down to earth, sensitive about their subject, and about people in close quarters just trying to reconcile their feelings about each other. 24 Colors ~Hatsukoi no Palette~ is not only a wonderful one-volume story for readers looking for an authentic love story but a great primer for the rest of Kozue Chiba’s other works. This just needs to be licensed. And I could actually review a proper physical copy too! Ah, dreams.