Twinkle Stars, Vol. 3

By Natsuki Takaya. Released in Japan as two separate volumes by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Sheldon Drzka.

I laugh heartily at my comment in the last review that Hijiri was absolutely perfect. She’s still my favorite, but this omnibus seemed entirely designed to show off that no, Hijiri is not perfect, that she is arrogant and headstrong and coming from a definite position of privilege, and when combined with the genuine fear she has of seeing her best friend get hurt again, it naturally leads to a bad confrontation. Which does, at least, get us Chihiro’s backstory, and the girl that he was supposedly in love with, Sakura. The love that it was, though, was a deeply unhealthy one, something the reader is well aware of as it plays out. Takaya is always at her best when showing off emotional pain, and we get that in spades here – there’s a suicide attempt, mostly successful, and implications that Chihiro also has suicidal thoughts. Fortunately, Takaya also writes Pollyannas, and that’s exactly what’s needed from Sakuya here.

Back to talking about Hijiri, literally everyone in the book realizes that she is doing the wrong thing and calls her out on it. First Yuuri, then Saki… it’s something that only she can do, being rich enough to basically have Chihiro’s entire past investigated to make sure that he’s not going to be causing Sakuya pain. And then, when she finds out about Sakura, his old love, telling her about it. Then she compounds it by refusing to admit what she did was wrong. It takes everything tat we’ve loved about the character for the last two omnibuses and turns it on its head, showing off the unpleasant and negative sides that her personality can have. We also learn how she first met Sakuya, and how her curiosity about those who felt pain turned to guilt and horror as she realized what that really means. Oh yes, and thankfully the crush on the teacher is not going to happen.

As for Chihiro, he’s more of a Yuki than a Kyo, if you know what I mean. It’s always a challenge to see someone repressing all their past emotional wounds and scars and not have them turn out somewhat flat, and again, Takuya is a master of doing this the right way. His confrontation with Sakuya at the reservoir is the highlight of the book, as we see that his obsession with Sakura (even the names are similar – at least in romanji) to an eerie degree) can turn to hatred as much as it does to love. Sakura is also a lonely child with a tragic past of abuse, like half the cast here, but she’s not written in a sympathetic way. I’ve no doubt she’ll wake up at some point, and I do wonder if she and Sakuya will ever meet.

Twinkle Stars gives fans of this author exactly what they want – deep emotional heartache and catharsis, calling out abuse for what it is, and showing that just because someone has a tragic past does not mean that their current joy and happiness has to be faked. I can’t wait to see where this goes next.

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