By Sneha Jaiswal (Twitter | Instagram)

The 2021 Japanese series ‘Kieta Hatsukoi’ or ‘Vanishing My First Love’/’My Love Mix-Up’ is an adaptation of a Manga by the same name. Out of curiosity, I read the manga, and the first episode is exactly how things happen in the comic. It’s as if the comic-book has come to life, readers can just watch it on mute and yet they’ll know exactly what’s happening.

Plot overview – Aoki Sota borrows an eraser from Hashimoto, the cute girl he has a crush on. To his shock, Aoki finds out the eraser has a boy’s name followed by a heart. Troubled, he drops the eraser and a student picks it up to give it back to Aoki. But not before noticing that his name ‘Ida’ is on the eraser, leading to the conclusion that Aoki has a crush on him. Not wanting to expose Hashimoto’s feelings, Aoki goes along with the misunderstanding, only to actually fall for the sweet and sincere Ida. What follows is a lot of confusion, comedy and sweet moments between a bunch of clueless high-school students.

Directors Kusano Shogo, Horai Tadaaki do a fantastic job of staying true to the original material with the opening episode. But as the story progresses, screenwriter Kuroiwa Tsutomu starts making a lot of changes, all for the better, making some of the silly scenes that seemed overtly exaggerated in the manga, more believable and sweet in the live-action series.

Actor Mishieda Shunsuke who plays protagonist Aoki is the beating heart of this show. He plays the shy, confused, comically bumbling high-school student to perfection. From his sad pouts to painfully awkward sequences of grappling with his feelings for a fellow student, Shunshuke makes viewers root for his silly but sweet character. Meguro Ren as the calm but slow Ida, the object of Aoki’s new-found affection, offers great contrast to the jittery Aoki. The actor however does look a little old to play a high-school student, which he is – while Shunsuke was 19 at the time the series came out, Ren was at-least 24, older than the other primary cast members playing his classmates.

Fukomoto Riko as Hashimoto is practically Aoki’s twin sister, both of them suffer from low self-esteem and don’t have the confidence to pursue what they want. But their friendship is adorable, the two keep encouraging each other to find their voice. Actor Suzuki Jin was almost unrecognizable as the impish Aida. His serious passionate persona from the series ‘Given’ is replaced by a fun, easy-going persona in ‘Keita Hatsuke’. One only wishes Ida’s pet-dog Mametaru had more screen-time.

The series has a high re-watch value and has a climax that’s as sweet as Christmas dessert. You’ll know if you see this series – a wholesome, cute teen romantic comedy. Unlike the Manga, the makers give viewers a conclusive ending that’s almost too perfect to be true. But hey, I am not complaining.

It’s a 8/10 from me. Stream it on Netflix.

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