When Matsunaga comes to pick up his twin niece and nephew from daycare, he notices how much of a liking they’ve taken to a certain daycare worker. In a fit of desperation, he decides to hire Shitaru to be the part-time babysitter for the twins Aoi and Akane. As someone whose mother and father are also no longer with her, Shitaru bonds quickly with the twins as she tries to make their early years as fun as possible. With Matsunaga trying his best to raise them by himself, Shitaru slowly becomes an important member of their family and maybe even something more to Matsunaga. But when the twin’s grandparents decide they want to take custody, they may never have a reason to see each other again.
Love so Life has quickly become one of my favorite mangas. All 106 chapters are packed with heartwarming moments from the twins being simply adorable to Shitaru, who had spent most of her life in an orphanage, finally finding a place that feels like home. While the romance takes place between a 25-year-old and 16-year-old, I feel like they addressed it pretty carefully and allowed Shitaru to grow before bringing on the heavier romance. However, I feel like I probably wouldn’t have had any problem with their relationship as Shitaru tends to act much more mature for her age. In any case, I think the real selling point for this manga has to be the twins. The way they grow, learn, and generally be toddlers creates a great light-hearted atmosphere that helps dampen some of the heavier themes woven throughout.
The main focus of Love so Life deals with Shitaru’s growth as she begins to experience what a real family feels like after living in an orphanage for most of her life. Through some flashbacks, we see that her love for children came from her decision to take care of the children at the orphanage from a very early age. This also meant that she matured mentally pretty quickly at least in terms of a caregiver sense, which means to many at the orphanage and to the twins as well, she is considered an older sister almost to the point of a motherly figure. But, this responsibility she thrust onto herself seems to be a way to mask the loss of her mother, which is something that is still very real to her. There are many times we see clearly that mask slip a little bit to reveal a much more vulnerable Shitaru than she would have you believe. However, with Matsunaga and the twins, she is able to let down those walls and be more like the teenager that she actually is because she finally has a semi-stable support network.
Emotionally speaking though she is still pretty naive when it comes to love and relationships, which is understandable. Shitaru has had to grow up pretty fast, but that growth has mainly been constrained to taking care of children and not interacting with people her own age, especially men. While I say I don’t mind the large age gap that comes with this romance because she acts older than she is, there is still the issue of her emotional maturity. But I also think this is something that gets addressed pretty carefully as Shitaru puts a lot of time into thinking about how her feelings for Matsunaga change over time. That and Matsunaga never tries to rush anything and consistently holds himself back from advancing their relationship. To both of them, the twins are still the most important thing in their lives right now, but the concept that they always want to be with one another is repeatedly at the back of their mind. I only think we get to see a serious consideration of a relationship when they’re close to losing custody of the twins all together, who have been their excuse to see each other until now.
And who wouldn’t want to be with these adorable 2-year-olds? Did I mention the little animal costumes? Kaede Kochi does an awesome job bringing these two to life with her art. Their expressions and mannerisms are very reminiscent of how a 2-year-old would act, and the way they try to make sense of the world is sweet and really makes you think about how much a child can really understand about the world around them. The majority of the manga takes place along the span of about two years, but we see so much growth from these two that it’s pretty astonishing. I think this is why Shitaru is so protective of them. She knows that your younger years can fly by very quickly and tries her hardest to make their memories of that time happy ones. I think, by far, my favorite moment in the manga is when Shitaru plans an errand for the twins to run on their own for the first time, going from neighbor to convenience store to make sure everyone knows what is going to happen. She and Matsunaga follow the twins at a safe distance and watch as their sense of independence and responsibility towards each other develops. It’s a truly heartwarming moment that really highlights how much the twins depend on each other and how much they’ve grown from the beginning of the manga. Through all the big moments of characterization are small moments where you get to see through their eyes for a little while as they take in things like the aquarium and the zoo for the first time.
Love so Life really plays up these moments as it works to discuss some darker issues like the death of a parent, growing up in an orphanage, divorce, abandonment, and bullying. I don’t think any of these issues were ever displayed in a manner that took away from the light-hearted nature of this manga, but there are still points where the deeper emotions of the characters really come across. Matsunaga’s biggest gag is that he is constantly overworked and collapses right when he gets home, but through all of that we see that he truly cares for the twins and only wants them to grow up in an environment different than the one he grew up in. To him, providing a family and a stable home for the them is his top priority, and over time that gets transferred to Shitaru as well.
I would say that if you like mangas like Sweetness and Lightning or maybe Barakamon, you’d find this to be up your alley. The tone stays pretty light-hearted throughout so it’s an easy read if you need a break from drama. Don’t let the 106 chapters scare you, there’s a lot of great content in there and much adorableness to be had.
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