Adachi and Shimamura, Vol. 7

By Hitoma Iruma and Non. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Molly Lee.

I have spent several volumes of this series fascinated by the thought process of Shimamura, and this is the volume that really drive home that perhaps I should have been paying more attention to Adachi, who is starting to worry me. Overexcitable angsty gay has worked for her so far, and has ranged from amusing (we see that in the first quarter or so of this volume) to seriously concerning (the rest of this volume). Indeed, Shimamura has benefited far more from getting a girlfriend, and makes stabs towards almost being normal in this book, in a detached introspective way. She’s saying and doing the right things. Adachi is not, and her lack of any other social group other than her crush/girlfriend is starting to tell in a bad way. Shimamura is allowed to have friends. It can’t just be the two of them in a bubble of their own. Given that I doubt the author is going to do a breakup arc anytime soon, I can only hope Adachi matures soon, as Christ, she’s annoying right now.

The main plot, such as it is, is the two girls trying to get used to their new relationship upgrade. Shimamura has to be a bit more proactive about everything, going along with making lunches for each other and things like that, while also still groping in her own mind towards how she feels about Adachi. I think she clearly loves her – she talks offhandedly about wanting to spend the rest of her life with Adachi – but it’s not connecting with anything other than her default “well, whatever” emotional setting. And there’s also old childhood friends to deal with… or rather, to avoid. As for Adachi, you’d think she’d be over the moon, and she is, but her anxiety and stress is simply making things worse most of the time. You know things are bad when she’s asking Nagafuji for date advice – if you thought we’d end up with boomerang throwing again, you’re right.

The main plot is bookended by several interludes showing alternate universes where Adachi and Shimamura meet or interact in different way. Sometimes this can be a mistake – the universe where Adachi stayed cool and aloof made me think “Oh my God, I wish we had this one instead” – but for the most part they show us that no matter what, the two girls will always somehow find their way to each other, which is sweet. There’s also the usual brief interaction with Yashiro, and I must admit I respect the author for not simply using her less and less as our heroines figure everything out but insisting she barge into the narrative anyway. She’s still not quite human, but she’s not quite 100% abnormal either. She’s almost a mentor to Shimamura and her sister, and has even taken to showing up in Shimamura’s dreams. It’s… weird, but not bad, sort of like eating a food with an unusual filling you didn’t expect in it.

The next volume promises a school trip, which should be fun. Till then, Adachi needs to chill more, Shimamura needs to chill less, and Nagafuji needs to find a different children’s toy.

Adachi and Shimamura, Vol. 6

By Hitoma Iruma and Non. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Molly Lee.

(I try not to spoil much, but honestly, if you read this you’ll guess what happens in it. Be warned.)

I’ve spent five volumes talking about Shimamura and her tendency to try not to feel too hard about things, which contrasts nicely with Adachi’s feeling very, very hard about everything… well, everything to do with Shimamura, that is. And if there’s any change that’s going to be happening, it’s going to have to be from Shimamura herself. Honestly, Adachi is expending all her energy not simply exploding in a giant cloud of gay. That said, good news: this is a big breakthrough volume for Shimamura, and probably the one that deals with her and her emotional reserve best. I don’t know that it works as well as it should – the author really relies on the reader connecting a lot of dots, and sometimes I don’t think they connect – but by the end of the book Shimamura is far more willing to reach out and deal with everything, including Adachi. Especially Adachi. Shimamura may not have worked out how she feels about Adachi just yet, but she’s definitely stopped ignoring the fact that Adachi is madly in love with her.

Sadly for Adachi, the first half of the book has Shimamura going to her grandparent’s place out in the country, so she’s going to have to suffer for a while on her own. Going back there, a place she’s spent many summers, fills Shimamura with memories, especially since the puppy which she played with when she was a little girl is now old and having trouble moving around like they used to. This causes Shimamura to think hard about her life, in particular the way that she’s chosen to close herself off from caring too much recently. When she returns (the return is the highlight of the book, for reasons I won’t spoil), she’s quick to phone Adachi, and they then agree to go out to another festival (I mean, it’s summer in Japan, there is always a festival somewhere). Oh yes, and before that they bathed together, which was… weird, but also led to Adachi confessing when she overheated. Will Shimamura finally face this fact and give Adachi a response? And will the response be something other than “well, OK, whatever”?

First off, I am spoiling one thing that does NOT happen in the book – the entire front of the book is setting the reader up for the dog to die. Hell, every time Shimamura sees the dog she herself is thinking that it’s going to be dead. But Adachi and Shimamura did not win the Newbery Medal, and therefore the dog does not die. I was relieved. As for Adachi and Shimamura, well, this is a turning point, certainly. I’m not sure it’s necessarily a good move all around – Adachi is worse than ever this volume, and I think if they ever animate it she’s going to have to simply be vibrating in place by the end. Shimamura has made great strides, and I was actually impressed with her through most of the book, but her response to Adachi still is more “sure, we’ll try that” rather than a big emotional investment. Which makes sense – honestly, even getting a small emotional investment is a victory.

So how will things progress from here? Will it be cute and teen romancey, or will it get realistic and have everything fly apart because these two are far too emotionally scattered to really connect right now? Still, Shimamura trying is infinitely better than the Shimamura we’ve had until now, so I’m in favor overall.

Adachi and Shimamura, Vol. 5

By Hitoma Iruma and Non. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Molly Lee.

o/~ Come on baby now throw me a right to the chin
Just one sign that could show me that you give a shit
But you just smile politely
And I grow weaker… o/~

–Ben Folds Five, Selfless, Cold and Composed

For a little less than half of this volume of the series, it is a very typical Adachi and Shimamura. Adachi stresses out and worries about what Shimamura is doing/thinking and whether any of it involves her. Shimamura, in contrast, barely thinks of Adachi, instead living her normal life and occasionally attempting to have a real human emotion. Tarumi, her childhood friend with a crush that is obvious to everyone but Shimamura, asks to to a fireworks festival, which she agrees to, though of course her sister and Yashiro come along as well. Adachi is also at this festival, working at a booth for her restaurant, and spots Shimamura and some other girl she doesn’t know in the distance. Oh dear, the reader thinks. Now Adachi is going to stress and stress to herself and avoid Shimamura and do all the other little coping mechanisms that she’s perfected over the last four books. Well, reader, be relieved, that does not happen. Instead, we get what must be one of the most epic meltdowns in the history of light novels.

This happens when Adachi is on the phone with Shimamura, trying not-so-subtly to find out who was that lady Shimamura was with last night. When Shimamura is her usual oblivious self not really listening to anything she’s saying, Adachi proceeds to whine. For one paragraph that goes on for almost six pages. A massive block of text. Everything that she has kept suppressed from the start of the book comes out in one long rant, showing off exactly how obsessed with Shimamura she really is, and also how much she really does feel like a child. Every time you flip a page you think it is almost over, but no, Adachi keeps shouting over the phone, forever. Eventually she runs down into hysterically sobbing Shimamura’s name… and Shimamura’s response is our response as well. “So annoying.” (click).

So, as you can imagine, I was prepared for a second half of DRAMA. This is my own fault, as I forgot a) what series I was reading, and b) what Shimamura is like. Adachi, actually showing some gumption after realizing how much she has fucked up, asks Shimamura out, and Shimamura agrees readily, and seems to have completely forgotten about Adachi’s breakdown the previous day. Actually, this is MORE annoying to Adachi, who would like something a bit more than “indifference”, but well, she fell in love with Shimamura, so she has to take what that means. That said, Shimamura does get something out of this whole debacle: Adachi needs more friends that are not her, to broaden her social life. So she tries to rehabilitate Adachi, who goes along with it for a bit, and they invite Hino and Nagafuji for karaoke, but… meh. It’s not remotely fun for Adachi. Now what?

Adachi comes to a big realization at the end of this book, which she can now admit to herself out loud (at least while no one else she knows is around). Shimamura, on the other hand, while seemingly being the mature, responsible one (something brought up here multiple times by others) continues to make me want to scream until the universe finally ends and then keep screaming after that. I worry that even if Adachi does confess, Shimamura’s reaction will be “well, okay” or something like that. Basically, I suspect these two are going to be in a relationship soon, but neither of them should be. At all. What will Volume 6 bring? Dunno, but I’ll read it, if only to scream more.