My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex: “First Kiss Manifesto”

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.

Last time I mentioned that the anime was just starting, and I wondered how it would be handled. Well, now we know, and we also know that apparently the anime producers like Akatsuki as much as I do. Almost the entire third volume was jettisoned from the anime, which decided it really did not need multiple episodes focusing on the world’s most toxic ex-couple. More to the point, they knew something had to go if they wanted to adapt this volume, which turns out to have the perfect “open ending” for an anime that might eventually get a second season. It focuses squarely on our main couple… well, OK, no it doesn’t. It focuses squarely on Yume. The back and forth narrative voices are skewed very much towards the feminine thins time around, because Yume wears her heart on her sleeve and is really easy to figure out, but Mizuto bottles everything up and is not. It takes a family reunion to finally crack the “my stupid ex” facade.

Mizuto and Yume have now gotten comfortable with each other, and with arguing. Perhaps a bit too comfortable, as their parents note they act like a couple that’s fallen out of the “honeymoon” phase. Because Yume is Yume, she looks up online how to deal with this, which apparently involves going with Mizuto to try on swimsuits. The reason for the swimsuit is that they’re making the annual trek into the rural hinterlands of Japan to see Mizuto’s extended family, and this is the first year Yume and her mother will be making the trip. Meeting the in-laws goes well enough, but unfortunately they also come with a hot older cousin, who Yume seems to be convinced was Mizuto’s first love. And in fact Mizuto has been acting even more remote and uncaring than usual lately. Is there something going on?

I don’t want to spoil one of the major emotional parts of the book, which involves Mizuto’s great-grandfather, but suffice it to say it’s really well handled and offers some insight into Mizuto himself. But what this book is really about is Yume coming to terms with the fact that she’s in love with Mizuto. I enjoy the way that it’s framed, as it’s not a case of “oh, I’ve been in love with him all this time”, but rather that the Yume here and now loves him, and her biggest rival turns out not to be Higashira (who is busy trying to write AO3 fanfics of herself and Mizuto, and failing) but her younger self, the one who first captured Mizuto’s heart. The reason that most of the narrative is from her perspective is because we need Mizuto to be mysterious and remote here. I do wonder what his reaction will be in the next book.

I may need to wonder longer, of course, given that the cover art and back cover copy of Volume 5 imply it’s a 100% Higashira focused book. In the meantime, this was an excellent romantic comedy volume… unless you’re Akatsuki and Kawanami, I guess. Sorry, guys, cute pool antics aside, you’re just not important enough.

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