My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex: “Within Arm’s Reach”

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 the first volume taking place after our main couple have gotten together… again… and as you can imagine, it’s leading up to one big scene. That said, it certainly does meander before it gets there. This series has always played with viewpoint – from the start, the main chapters alternated between Mizuto and Yume, usually with some variation on how they used to be in love but are older and wiser now. As the series went on, we got more and more viewpoints from the POV of other characters, such as the best friends of our lead couple, or the rest of the student council. And honestly, with this volume I think we may have finally gotten an answer to the question “how much is too much”. I think everyone in the entire cast with the exception of Isana gets a look in here, and it makes the book too scattered. It’s only in the final dramatic battle/love scene that it settles down – ironically, when the POV switch is at its worst.

Mizuto and Yume are now a couple once more, but there is a slight problem – they’re still stepsiblings. As a result, they have to hide their relationship from both their parents and from everyone at school. The latter is only slightly successful – Minami and Kawanami figure things out pretty fast – but it does mean that there are a certain amount of repressed feelings that are happening. And, of course, this book also takes place around Valentine’s Day and White Day, with all the plots that you’d expect with that. We get another couple getting together here, despite some truly amazing amounts of self-hatred and loathing to get through in order to accept it – and as for Minami and Kawanami… it may be a bit longer, but they’re making real prgress as well. As for Mizuto and Yume, their parents taking an extended away trip means that they may finally be able to go all the way this time… provided this does not turn into Kaguya-sama: Love Is War again.

I will admit, I was schnookered by the author. The moment the two of them decided that this was going to be some sort of contest to see who admitted to wanting to have sex first, I was fairly certain that they were going to end up just doing nothing till their parents came back. But no, for once the two have semi-matured enough – and are prepared enough to buy nice lingerie and condoms – that they actually do end up getting past the competitiveness and having their first time. The sex, as you can imagine, is elided rather than explicitly described, but the elision is actually very clever, relying on the swapping narrative POV to give us the rhythm of two lovers coming closer and closer to a climax. Also, as with the previous sex scene in this series, the first time is not necessarily “the best sex ever” – it’s typical first sex – but they’re both happy, which is all that matters.

That competitiveness may end up returning after the cliffhanger ending to this book, though thankfully it will be in the classroom rather than the bedroom. I just hope we can get back to primarily being Mizuto and Yume’s narration.

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