Twinkle Stars, Vol. 4

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.

The decline and fall of Hijiri continues in this omnibus, as she tries her hardest to be a Hanajima but in the end is more of a Rin, complete with the angry freakouts whenever she’s embarrassed. This is not to say I don’t enjoy the entire plotline; the relationship between Hijiri and Saki may not be the healthiest in the world, but it’s cute, and leads to several laugh-out-loud moments, such as seeing how Hijiri first ‘brought Saki home’. Her own frustrations seem to spill over into her interaction with others as well, as she tries to help a girl who likes Yuuri confess to him even though she knows he’s going to reject the girl, and also tries to nag Yuuri into making his own advances on Sakuya, even as Yuuri seems content to sit back and watch Chihiro and Sakuya grow closer.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that he suspect Chihiro will simply torpedo himself before too long. Takaya’s series tend to have a common theme of seemingly “pure-hearted and good” people repressing their own emotions and traumas, and we get a lot of that here, as the art shows a large degree of depressed, resigned stares into the middle distance as characters wrestle with the fact that they might actually be forced to confront feelings that they’ve been avoiding for years. Kanade’s past is learned here, and it too manages to be a parade of parental abuse and distorted bouts of anger, another constant in Takaya’s works. I’ve tended to think that Twinkle Stars is trying to apologize to Tohru/Yuki Furuba fans by having this title be the one where they win, with Kanade as “Kyo”, but while Kanade is an awful lot like Kyo, he’s not a romantic lead, so it doesn’t quite fit.

This may make it sound as if the entire volume is nothing but depressing moping around, and it’s not. Takaya does have a certain amount of humor in this book, usually through snarky comments and reaction takes. Again, we see this most in scenes with Hijiri, whose own subplot is meant to be a lighter counterpart to the more serious relationships. This unfortunately does have the effect of diminishing Hijiri a bit, as I noted above – yes, she’s a bit more realistic and flawed, but I also feel she’s becoming almost too much of a caricatured “angry, embarrassed girl”, a trope which I think works better in shonen settings than in shoujo ones.

Twinkle Stars ran 11 volumes in Japan, and we’re up to 8 with this omnibus. I’m not certain if the final volume will be a triple of if we’ll get a single volume 6. In either event, I do still enjoy this series, especially for the emotional resonance, though I am grateful it’s going to be wrapping up soon as I’m not sure how much more teenage romantic drama I can take.

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