Haibara’s Teenage New Game+, Vol. 1

By Kazuki Amamiya and Gin. Released in Japan as “Haibara-kun no Tsuyokute Seishun New Game” by HJ Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Esther Sun.

I think, like most people, I have no desire to go back in time and try to do things differently. Not because I’m reasonably content with all my life choices, but simply because I know that if I ever did I would be resolutely terrible at it, and probably locked away within the first week. I suppose with Haibara it helps that he’s not all that far removed from his past, but still: there’s too many ways for everything to go wrong. As indeed we find in this book, where we discover that the only thing worse than screwing up, is NOT screwing up. Fortunately, it turns out that Haibara’s old past was mostly self-inflicted, and that he’s hanging out with a nice gang of popular kids. Chitose Is in the Ramune Bottle might argue this is a bit unrealistic, but it’s not meant to be. Everyone knows what they’re getting with this teenage fantasy. And to its credit, it’s written pretty well.

Natsuki Haibara is a college student who regrets his past. He tried to reinvent himself in high school, and it was such a failure that it cost him any friends he once had. He spent the rest of his time in a self-described grey existence. And so he makes a wish to God to get a do-over… and wakes up back in his parents’ home, 7 years earlier. He’s just graduated middle school, meaning he’s still overweight, wearing glasses, and fashion ignorant. He can’t do much about the last, but he can fix the first two, and goes on a month-long binge to get himself to the point where he can have a rainbow-colored high school debut… this time with the experience of knowing exactly where he went wrong. But that experience can cut both ways, and it turns out that just because you’ve gained 7 years worth of talents it does not make you less oblivious about other people’s feelings.

I appreciated that the main conflict in this first volume is not directly about Haibara and a series of girls who kind of like him (though that is of course here as well, as that’s the genre we’re in), but about trying to reconnect with one of the few friends in high school who supported him until he finally screwed up too much, Tatsuya. Initially Haibara is really wary of Tatsuya, and it shows, but he asks his friend Reita (who is the standard “cool hot boy” in these stories) to let him work it out himself. Then, he can’t take his own advice as he’s unable to realize that, thanks to years of extra experience, he’s now TOO perfect, to the point where he makes others jealous of him. And now he doesn’t realize that the answer is mostly “let Tatsuya work it out himself”. Luckily, everything turns out OK.

This can be hard to read at times, especially if you have no desire to relive the horrors of high school interrelations, but it’s solid and avoids most of the pitfalls I was hoping it would avoid. It’s decent romcom, with a minimum of rom at the moment, though I expect that to change.

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