Alya Sometimes Hides Her Feelings in Russian, Vol. 4.5

By Sunsunsun and Momoco. Released in Japan as “Tokidoki Bosotto Russia-go de Dereru Tonari no Alya-san” by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Matthew Rutsohn.

I joked on Twitter that after Agents of the Four Seasons (which was terrific) and The Deer King (which was sublime), anything read after it would always suffer in comparison, so I’d have to “sacrifice” a series and it might as well be Alya. Honestly, though, I think I’d have been ‘meh’ about this volume even if it hadn’t come after books that are much better than it is. First of all, and most obviously, my least favorite part of the series to date was the horrible hypnosis subplot in the third book, and so it’s not surprising that I greeted a short story that’s basically a sequel to that with numb horror. More to the point, though, the last volume was relatively disconnected to begin with, showing the cast on summer break, so I’m not sure why we needed another volume that shows the summer break stories we missed the previous time. Can’t we just get on with the plot?

The stories: 1) Sayaka and Yuki bond over their love of otaku stuff, but that also means they’re rivals; 2) A day in the life of Nonoa, whose facade hides a whole lot, and her underlings she has picked up from the bottom; 3) Alya and Ayano both suffer trying to cure their fear of spicy ramen; 4) Masachika and Yuki’s father gets home from overseas, and realizes that his son and daughter are a bit weird; 5) The cast try to clear up the “seven mysteries of the school”, which involves wandering around the school late at night; 6) Part 2 of this, involving Alya and Masachika getting “locked” in a gym storeroom; 7) Part 3 of the story, where we deal with Maria and Alya’s fear of ghosts, and discover that ghosts can be punched; 8) The story of how Touya and Chisaki met; 9) more hypnosis; 10) Maria and Alya go shopping for swimsuits; 11) the cast has a “guess who cooked what meal” competition; 12) the girls, late at night at the summer event, talk about love; and 13) Masachika and Alya, on the subway, discuss the kiss that happened in Book 4.

As with most of these collections, some stories are better than others. I enjoyed the “guess who cooked what” chapter more than I expected, mostly as it did not fall into the trap of anime cliches. Sayaka and Yuki being giant nerds was also amusing, though honestly we get that from Yuki all the time. Masachika and Yuki’s own father worrying they’re a bit too incestuous helps to show why the two of them have gotten away with hiding their sibling relationship for so long – people don’t want to pick the creepy option. And the final chapter was sweet and quiet, and probably should have been in the fourth book to begin with. Aside from the one I mentioned above, none of these were bad, but they weren’t essential – even the author admits they’ll never be brought up in the main series. It is a quintessential .5 volume.

Fortunately, Vol. 5 is next. Let’s hope for plot.

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