There’s No Way a Side Character Like Me Could Be Popular, Right?, Vol. 3

By Sekaiichi and Tomari. Released in Japan as “Yujinchara no Ore ga Motemakuru Wakenaidaro?” by Overlap. Released in North America by Tentai Books. Translated by Alejandro de Vicente Suárez.

When the first novel in this series first got translated into English, the romcom was still very much a rarity in the market. When the second one was published, the genre was starting to be licensed here, if not yet seen. But it’s been a good 15 months since the 2nd volume came out over here, and since then we’ve had absolutely PILES of cute high school romantic comedies. Indeed, My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In For Me! manages to hit a lot of the exact same plot points as There’s No Way a Side Character Like Me Could Be Popular, Right?, down to the character types. Unfortunately, that also means that I’m a lot less forgiving of said types when they hit on things I don’t like. And this one absolutely does that, as it adds a third romantic love interest to our “side character”, his teacher Makiri-sensei. Should be fine, should be fine, we know how well teacher-student romances go over here. Buckle up, folks.

After the events of the second book, Yuuji now has a fake girlfriend, Touka (who is genuinely in love with him but he doesn’t get it) and a rejected childhood friend Kana (whose love he DOES get, but he rejects her because of what’s going on with Touka). The two of them unfortunately spend the majority of the book sniping at each other in a classic romantic comedy “jealous girls fighting over their boy” way that irritates Yuuji’s friends almost as much as it does the reader. While this is going on, though, he makes a discovery about his teacher, Makiri-sensei. We already know that she’s much kinder than her seeming cold exterior – now we find that she’s an awful drunk, thjat’s she’s very upset about still being a virgin, and that her father is setting her up for an arranged marriage. It feels like a pulled a slot machine and got three lemons. But I really don’t want to make this lemonade.

The book does have some interesting moments, usually when it tries to push against its romcom cliches. Yuuji’s got the face of a thug, but also has had violent incidents in his past, and in this book we get to see his relationship with his father, which is… really, really uncomfortable and also far more interesting than anything else with his teacher. He and his dad are alike in far more ways than either of them are willing to admit, and seeing Yuuji snap and finally air his grievances – so to speak – in that flashback was chilling. It’s then followed up wtih his father also being a secret manga otaku who reads We Never Learn adn is therefore OK with his son banging his teacher, and I’m ready to hit my head against the table again.

I like the dynamic between the two leads in this series. Touka is fine here, and I can feel her frustration. But it was going to take a miracle to get me to like this plot, and the book didn’t even turn water into Sprite, much less wine. Skip this and see if the fourth book gets back to entertaining romcom stuff.

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