by Aya Nakahara; adapted by Shaenon K. Garrity
published by Viz; $9.99 US
Turns out that this is the final volume of the main series story. The last book, due in March, will contain bonus flashback and follow-up stories checking in with the characters.
The previous volume didn’t quite click with me (but compare the covers), but here, with things wrapping up, I was totally won over by the characters’ uncertainties, sadness, and bittersweet hopes. Graduation is a time full of potent feelings that run the gamut. I was caught up in memories of my own school years, brought back to how much of an emotional yo-yo that time involves. Plus, it’s cute to see the kids all dressed up for the last dance.
Otani is selected to play the lead in the final class play, a Japanese version of Tom Thumb, so there’s one last chance for short jokes and playing up his differences with his girlfriend Risa. The driving plot involves a classmate trying to break them up for her own unusual reason. It’s both dramatic and humorous, supported by the characters’ overreactions. I love the way Nakahara captures their expressions in such clear, readable fashion. There are showdowns and uncertainties and silly plots and having to overcome all one’s fears in order to be honest with the one you care for.
Maybe I’m just a softy, but I enjoyed reading it all, working with these teens through the whirlwind of activities. As one part of their lives ends, we see references back to the beginning at the same time they’re looking towards the future. My favorite part was when Risa, narrating the play Otani is starring in, starts arguing with him on stage. She’s changed the ending in order to better reflect their real-life situation, but she does it in her typical brash “take me or leave me” style, which is a large part of her charm. Ultimately, this series is about the courage to act on your feelings.
Also in this volume is an additional stand-alone story telling the life of Teppei Koike; he’s a singer whose first major acting role was playing Otani in the Love*Com movie. This chapter is a typical “kid comes to the big city, works hard and is determined to never give up until he makes it big” tale. There are lots of questions unanswered, like how he got to the city in the first place (it seems he already has a deal by the time he gets there) or who paired him up with his music partner, and the discouraging emotional sections are minor and easily moved past. It’s a puff piece, and it doesn’t even mention acting, but his fans would like it.