Adachi and Shimamura, Vol. 9

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

The self-improvement of Shimamura continues in this volume, following up from the last one. We see Shimamura reflecting on her past self and her tendency to deliberately forget about everyone around her, o the point where it’s an active choice. But now she has Adachi in her life and as her girlfriend. The trouble is, as Adachi points out to her here, she’s very hard to read. Shimamura tends to have one mode, which is “whatever”, and when you are a stressed and insecure young lesbian like Adachi, that just makes you think that the relationship is entirely one-sided. And credit to Shimamura, she really tries hard here, even using the word love to show Adachi how serious she is. Admittedly their relationship has not really progressed beyond holding hands, but given the two participants and their emotional ages that’s not only unsurprising but likely a good thing. I hope future books will show us Adachi’s self-improvement as well. As for Yashiro… she is perpetually the same.

After Shimamura tells a curious Yashiro about her junior high years of rebellion (which consisted of skipping class and not much else), we get the meat of the first half of the book, which is telling us a bit about Hino and Nagafuji’s childhood. This comes up because Hino’s father, who is not the best at communicating, tells her she isn’t important to the family legacy. Hino, who is thirteen in this flashback, does not really take this well (though, as is fairly typical with this author’s works, a lot of the emotional turmoil is left for the reader to fill in themselves) and decides to run away from home. After getting permission. And also taking her maid. And Nagafuji. The second half of the book is Christmas, and shows us an adorable date between our lead couple, Adachi breaking out the Chinese-style dress again, and Christmas dinner at the Shimamuras with a surprise guest, which may carry over into the next book.

This is the final volume with illustrations by Non, who I believe had been ill, and the illustrations are mostly ones used from other promotional materials – there are no interior ones. Which is a shame, but also allows us to see the pasts of most of the main cast without having to see them attempted as “3 years younger”. The Hino and Nagafuji stuff was good, though Hino’s narration works far better (and is far longer) than Nagafuji’s. It’s also implied that her parents have a marriage of convenience and that her mother and head maid are childhood friends with benefits. It’s heavily implied this is what Hino could have with Nagafuji too, though the idea of Nagafuji as a maid is horrifying. The other interesting part of the book is the relationship between the two moms. Mrs. Adachi reads very much like her daughter only cynical and bitter, and Shimamura likewise has her daughter’s “well, whatever” mood only extroverted to the nth degree. It’s kind of fun.

This wasn’t terrific, but is at least solid, even if it read a bit like a short story collection at times. The best parts were Shimamura’s forwardness. We’ll see if she can keep that up.

Adachi and Shimamura, Vol. 8

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

There was a three-year gap between the previous volume and this one, and you can sort of tell. There’s a bit of a priority shift in the way the story is being told. For one thing, while Adachi still gets the occasional POV scene, the book has finally admitted that it should be called “Shimamura and Adachi”. Shimamura gets 90% of the first-person narrative, and the entire book is about forcing her to confront how she feels about Adachi, what she wants to do in a relationship with Adachi, and what they mean to each other. The answer will not surprise you, because the book begins with a flash-forward to ten years later, when we see the two of them living together and planning a trip to San Francisco. Given the ‘alternate universes’ of the previous volume, I was expecting ‘it was all a dream’ or something similar, but no. That said, there is one sad part. Sorry, toy shippers, Yashiro and Shimamura’s little sister is not gonna happen. She’s perpetually ten.

The non-flash-forward part of the book is also about a trip – the school trip, which is going to Kitakyushu. Naturally, Adachi is a combination of nervous wreck and jealous child, but for once we don’t really dwell on her. Instead we focus almost entirely on Shimamura, who is dealing with several problems. She’s in a group with Adachi and the three girls she briefly made friends with at the start of the school year, and things are… awkward, mostly as her new relationship is not nearly as secret as she’d like. Yashiro has stowed away in her backpack like a Doraemon invention. And an evening at a hot spring means that she is suddenly very aware that Adachi not only loves her in a romantic way but loves her in a sexual way. Being Shimamura, she’s not sure what to do about any of this, but she does come away with one thing – she wants to be with Adachi for the foreseeable future.

As noted, this book came out after a three-year gap, and it shows in the writing (and not just because Yashiro throws in a Demon Slayer reference). For one thing, Shimamura is asked point blank if she’s a lesbian, something I don’t think would have happened in this series even a few years earlier. (As you might guess, she doesn’t give a straight answer, but it leans more towards “Adachisexual”.) In the same conversation (it’s the best part of the book, and it did not escape my attention that that may be because Adachi’s not in it) Shimamura is also called a “hot mess”, and I laughed because it’s true. But she’s actually trying to fix that in real ways, being more tactile with Adachi, suggesting things like holding hands or snuggling, and trying to tease her without having Adachi take it the wrong way. As for Yashiro… well, if you don’t like her, this is not the book for you. She’s in this more than any other book, and she even has some good philosophical advice for Shimamura. She’s part of the writer’s world.

The flash-forward does show that Adachi is no longer a ball of vibrating gay whenever she’s around her girlfriend, which is good, though I hope I don’t have to wait ten years for that to kick in. In the meantime, Shimamura has gone from a creature who tries to emulate human emotions but can’t work up the energy to a real live human being. I can’t make fun of her anymore.

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 drove 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.