Venus in Love 2 by Yuki Nakaji: B+

From the back cover:
Fukami is convinced that there’s chemistry between his friends Suzuna and Eichi, who just need a little push to become a couple. Little does he suspect that they both have a crush on him. But Fukami’s got his own romantic distraction with a girl he keeps running into. When Suzuna realizes that she has a new rival, she’s going to have to act fast. Can she build up the nerve to tell him how she really feels?

The main plot threading through this volume is that Fukami has a possible love interest, and it’s neither Suzuna nor Eichi. Her name is Honoka, and while she’s not terribly interesting herself so far, like the Mei character in the latest volume of Ouran, she’s a catalyst for Eichi and Suzuna to figure out what to do about their feelings for Fukami.

Aside from this, the volume is a little random. There’s a tennis camp, a visit from Eichi’s younger brother (In shoujo manga, they’re always sent by a parent because the older sibling doesn’t visit sufficiently.), a school festival, and a fashion show. It’s all an enjoyable read and the characters are likable, but I don’t find it as emotionally compelling as, say, Love*Com. I think the issue is that we don’t really get inside the heads of any of the characters, plus it doesn’t seem like Suzuna seriously loves Fukami. She just thinks he’s dreamy.

As a final note, the art continues to confuse me a bit. Facially, the new character Honoka looks just like Suzuna, unless I’m missing some subtle distinction.

Despite these few critical comments, I do like the series and plan to continue with it.

Venus in Love 1 by Yuki Nakaji: A-

From the back cover:
College freshman Suzuna is looking forward to making friends, joining a club, and hopefully getting a boyfriend! She develops an early crush on Fukami—charismatic tennis player and friend of her neighbor, Eichi. But her other new friend—the beautiful Hinako—has some interesting information regarding Eichi that’s going to force Suzuna to take a second look at the whole situation. She’s about to discover that love can come with some unexpected competition.

I usually like to wait until I’ve built up at least some backlog of a series before starting it, but I’d heard such good things about Venus in Love that I just had to dive in. It did not disappoint.

I especially liked the college setting—it’s not one I’ve seen before in a shoujo manga, I don’t think—and the relationships between the main quartet of characters. No one behaved in some zany, over-the-top fashion, and enough small moments were included to show that these people genuinely like each other. There was a particularly cute scene between Fukami and Suzuna where they both showed up early for an outing and, after their conversation lapsed into silence, just sort of smiled awkwardly at each other.

A few shoujo clichés were used, like a sprained ankle that required Fukami to carry Suzuna, but they were really only backdrop for the characters instead of some high point of drama, so it wasn’t annoying. The art was confusing at times, too. I couldn’t reconcile the wispy blond Eichi from the interior with the darker-haired version on the cover. Also, sometimes the female characters were hard to tell apart. There was a sequence where Eichi told Suzuna about a former girlfriend of Fukami’s, and I couldn’t tell whether it was supposed to be Hinako or not.

I enjoyed this first volume very much and add my voice to the chorus of admirers.