by Chica Umino; adapted by Akemi Wegmuller
published by Viz; $8.99 US
I wasn’t as blown away by Book 1 as I’d hoped to be, after hearing wonderful things about this title, but after reading the second volume, I suspect that this is going to be a series that grows slowly on me. After reading this installment, I felt as though I knew the characters better. They were less figures of fun, defined by their quirks, and closer to being people with deeper emotions. The mood’s different, less sitcom, more dramedy.
The opening chapter contributed greatly to the switch, with Takemoto returning home to visit his mother and stepfather. His father’s death lead to him subsuming himself in taking care of his remaining parent; when she made her own choice, he didn’t know what to do. Seeing his background, his drives, made him more real to me and provided explanation for some of his previous behavior.
Don’t get the wrong impression, though. The next chapter is right back to wacky roommate hijinks, as the gang goes on a car trip to an inn getaway, which leads to drunken revelations. Then a trip to the zoo opens an opportunity for a heartfelt talk in which Mayama learns more about his crush. There’s the pain of unrequited love, the head-shaking over someone else’s stupid decisions, the conflict between staying with friends and leaving for work opportunity.
Things are moving quickly. Instead of spinning out story after story about the characters where nothing ultimately changes, the older members are looking for jobs in preparation for graduation. They’re moving on, as we all have to do.
The art at times looks penciled, not inked, which brings the emotion closer to the surface for me. Or perhaps, better to say that it comes through more clearly. The artist uses lines lightly, with simple structures making faces that at first appear blank but reveal more expression subtly. In contrast, in the humorous bits, the characters almost appeared scribbled on, with lots of ink lines showing anger or shock.
As an extra in this volume, there’s a “Story So Far” section. It’s clearly from later in the series, since it’s narrated by a character that first appears near the end of this book, but I still found it helpful. There’s also a short cultural notes section and a goofy strip about the artists.
This is the kind of work that provides lots of space for reflection of what the reader brings. There’s lots of room for the reader’s memories — of their time in school, or of knowing someone like a particular character, or of a situation that was similar. The more the reader is willing to read into or interact with the book, the more they’ll enjoy it.