My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex: “Even If We Aren’t Dating…”

By Kyosuke Kamishiro and TakayaKi. Released in Japan as “Mamahaha no Tsurego ga Motokano datta” by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Gierrlon Dunn.

This is very much a book of two halves. The first half is essentially more of the same stuff that we saw in the initial volume, with our two leads bitterly grousing at each other while also showing that eventually, when they get their heads out of their asses, they will once more be a terrific couple. The second half introduces a new girl to the mix, set up to be a rival love interest. That said, the author knows what the genre is. This is not the old school genre of “guy and the 100 girls who really, really etc. love him”, it’s part of the more recent “we are cute couples who flirt adorably” genre, with the twist that they aren’t a couple anymore and their flirting is bickering. As such, sympathy in the book stays solely with Yume, though the new girl is very nice and sweet, which is a plus, and possibly makes up for the fact that Akatsuki is still in this.

Mizuto and Yume continue to stubbornly not get along, despite the fact that their entire life is a series of light novel romcom moments (as is literally pointed out later). There’s seat changes in class, which brings back awkward memories; a Mother’s Day event which brings back sad awkward memories; a sleepover with their mutual friends which turns hideously awkward when it turns out that said friends live next door to each other; and a battle over best grades in the school that goes beyond awkward and into painful. We are then introduced to Isana Hagashira, who hangs out in the library, loves light novels, is socially inept, and has really large breasts (something she will point out, as she regards it as one of her few interesting features). She and Mizuto bond immediately, leaving Yume forced to confront her own repressed feelings.

Isana reminded me not a little of Kotomi Ichinose from Clannad, and the smile she gives on the cover art doesn’t really match her in this book, where she’s mostly rather expressionless, as part of her social difficulties. She’s really sweet, and I enjoyed seeing Akatsuki and Yume slowly force her to realize that she’s fallen in love with Mizuto. Unfortunately, framing her character as having crippling self-esteem issues and then having to have her forcibly rejected due to… well, due to the plot of the series… seems a bit mean. That said, it’s not nearly as mean as forcing us to spend time around Kagure and Akatsuki, who are there to remind us what a really toxic couple are like. Not that they’re dating, but this certainly is not the “if we just admitted we still love each other everything would be solved” of our two leads, there’s some real hatred here. I fear we will learn more about it later.

So yeah, this series still works best when it’s about the main couple. Fortunately, they’re the stars of the book. Recommended with reservations.

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