by Kazune Kawahara; adapted by Gemma Collinge
published by Viz; $8.99 US
The sports festival that started in the previous book continues, only with an added complication: Yoh’s friend Asaoka has declared his interest in Yoh’s girlfriend Haruna. Asaoka has a bet with Yoh; Asaoka will only leave Haruna (who’s blissfully unaware of all this) alone if Yoh beats him at the festival events.
I know things had to change once Yoh and Haruna got together — but I sometimes miss the humor of the early days, when Haruna was trying so hard to balance what she wanted with other people’s impressions of her. Now, she’s still clueless about behavior, but it’s more often used to get her into awkward circumstances that in anyone else’s case wouldn’t be all that believable. Her naivete and good humor makes it plausible that these things happen to her, though; she’s both well-meaning and unaware.
I don’t believe the canard that most shows and books end with the couple getting together because anything after that is boring — there’s plenty of drama in a loving, committed relationship. The writer just can’t go for the easy plot devices; it takes a little more work. But this book is not great evidence for my position, since becoming Yoh’s girlfriend made Haruna less interesting. Here, for example, she mostly stands around and roots for him to win. What happened to the competitive softball champion? Why don’t we see more of her participation (beyond an egg-and-spoon race)?
The art puts in all the drama it can, with unusual panel arrangements and very expressive figures. I really felt for these characters, trying their hardest to win for their school team and caring deeply for each other the way only teenagers can.
That love is what gets Yoh through a ridiculously funny visit to Haruna’s home, where her family falls all over themselves to welcome him. Then it’s time for extra summer classes, where Creepy Nerdy Girl tells Yoh off for being used to being the center of attention. I’m not sure why she decides to do this, but maybe she feels she can because no one pays attention to her anyway. She’s not wrong in what she says, but she’s pretty hurtful, because she doesn’t care about her targets.
Overall, this volume winds up being a lot of focus on Yoh coming out of his cool-guy shell. Creepy Girl fixates on him just because he was nice to her when everyone else ignored her. This is all very believable, in terms of teen politics, but exaggerated for entertainment. And quite successfully so, taken as a whole — there’s a lot to like in this series, even if this particular installment wasn’t as involving as I hoped. I’m sure the next, with more from Creepy Girl, will be.