The Girl I Saved on the Train Turned Out to Be My Childhood Friend, Vol. 4

By Kennoji and Fly. Released in Japan as “Chikan Saresou ni Natteiru S-kyuu Bishoujo wo Tasuketara Tonari no Seki no Osananajimi datta” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Sergio Avila.

This book tends to work against my fragmentary memory. It’s been almost a year since the last volume, which doesn’t help. Nor do Fly’s illustrations, which in this series tend to make everyone look very similar to each other. And, of course, everyone refers to each other by different names – be they polite “last name only” folks, childhood friend first names, cute nicknames, etc. What all this ends up meaning is that I find myself constantly trying to remember which girl is which and what their backstory is. But then that’s also what Ryou is doing here, of course. His entire childhood seems to be a blur, and even the promise with his childhood friend turns out to be something of a lie. He can remember things when literally confronted with them, as we see in a beach scene. But he’s too buried in his own self-loathing to really try experiencing anything else, such as, say, dating one of the girls in love with him.

The bulk of this volume is concerned with making the movie everyone has decided to do, with Ryou as the director, Shizuka as the writer, and Hina and Ai as the actresses, with the clever conceit that the guy they’re both in love with is never seen, but merely implied offscreen. Of course, there are a few hiccups to get through. Getting a camera requires getting a part-time job, but fortunately Ai’s agent can help Ryou out. A scene filmed on the beach turns into an entire vacation day at the beach, and Ryou and Hina almost, ALMOST moving forward in their relationship but still failing. The big subplot, though, is that Hina, the talented amateur, and Ai, the former-idol-turned-actress, are both up for the same role in a production. Only one can get the job, while the other is doomed to disappointment. What can Ryou’s role be in regards to both of them? And can he find a path of his own?

Probably the most gripping scene in the book is where Ryou, at the absolute limits of his utter loathing of himself, starts pouring words out into a notebook for the entire night, and they end up turning into another, different film that he wants to make – this one with Shizuka as the lead. We can probably guess why – given that it’s a product of his own frustration and despair, it makes sense that he’d turn to the girl in his life who’s also gloomy and self-hating to get the right vibe. But the frustration and despair stem from the two main girls in his love triangle (sorry, Shizuka), who are both gorgeous, talented, and know what they want to do with their life – or at least, that’s what he thinks. We know from the occasional non-POV narration we get from them that both are also feeling a bit lost and afraid, which is why Ai’s agent asks Ryou to step in and help in THAT way at the book’s conclusion.

There are better “summer of my youth” romances out there, but there’s nothing really wrong with this one.

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