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.

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.