By Nagaru Tanigawa and Puyo. Released in Japan as “Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu” by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Ace. Released in North America by Yen Press.
In an earlier post regarding this book’s imminent debut, it was noted that the series is essentially a fanfic AU written by someone who wants to get Kyon and Yuki together, just like you see with the infinite Harry/Hermione or Zuko/Katara fanfics on FFNet. And there’s honestly no denying it; that is exactly what this is. It’s light and fluffy fun, but it is essentially Haruhi with all the spiky bits filed off it. Everyone’s more agreeable, everyone’s more adaptable, and everyone’s simply happier. Including Yuki Sue… um, Yuki Nagato.
Now, this isn’t saying that this manga is horrible. I like it a lot. It’s simply saying that this manga is not particularly gripping or filled with tension. In essence, it’s not really a spinoff of the Haruhi series itself as it is a spinoff of the SD-manga spinoff Haruhi-chan. Various ideas from that series (Ryoko as an onee-sama type, though a comedic one; Nagato’s gaming habits; Haruhi going after Santa) are used in this AU, mostly to show off the author’s own preferences. But whereas in Haruhi-chan everything ends up being a setup for a punchline, here everything is a setup for an adorable heartwarming moment. Even the dramatic moments.
This volume sees the introduction of Haruhi herself (as well as Koizumi, who is essentially a non-entity in this series). She’s not totally unrecognizable. She’s still trying to befriend aliens, time-travelers and espers, and will scream this out to anyone who asks. She’s still bulldozing through people to get her own way, and quickly takes up residence at the literature club even if she goes to a different school. and she’s not above using Kyon as her personal punching bag when a punching bag is needed. But she’s more mature than the Haruhi of the original series, and it’s striking that, even though we see her starting to fall for Kyon here, she’s not going to get all that jealous about it. Haruhi doesn’t have the power to change the world with a bad mood here, and it seems to have made her a better person.
As for Yuki and Kyon, they continue to grow closer, much to Ryoko’s encouragement and chagrin. Valentine’s Day is in this volume, and of course there is chocolate to be made. This leads to what’s probably the best sequence of the book, where we’re led to believe that we will see a cliched misunderstanding lead to heartbreak. It’s not entirely out of the question – this manga isn’t all that original. But this Yuki is more of a ditz than a doormat, and the misunderstanding turns out to have been… well, a misunderstanding. And Haruhi, who’s no dummy and can clearly see that Yuki is head over heels for Kyon, challenges her to step up and go after him. In a genre where high school girls are so often cruel and heartless, it’s fantastic to see love rivals be open and honest.
The flaws I mentioned in Volume 1 are still here. The art simply isn’t all that great, though it’s getting better. And Kyon needs more snark desperately. But of course no one is particularly reading this book for Kyon, but for the moe cuteness. And in that respect, few things deliver on that promise like Nagato Yuki-chan. That said, I’m not sure the series can coast on cute fluffiness forever. I hope that the author comes up with a more serious arc by, say, Volume 4. (Foreshadowing: your key to quality literature.)
(Also, is it wrong of me to ship Haruhi/Ryoko? Cause I totally am.)