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.

Adachi and Shimamura, Vol. 4

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

Since my last review, the anime has been running, and it’s due to adapt up to this volume if it keeps at the pace it’s been using. The anime has helped me come to terms with Shimamura’s monologues somewhat – it cuts out the boring bits, which is to say 80% of them, and leaves us with what is essentially a teenage girl who is constantly doubting that she is even a functional human being. Given the evidence of this book, she is correct to worry. Not that Adachi is any better, as the start of second year shows, to her horror, that despite the “I want to be BEST friends!” of previous books, just a mere class change can mean Shimamura will be happy to drift away from her without another thought. So Adachi is ready to take the initiative. Confess? A ha ha ha no. But she’s ready to ask if they can eat lunch together, and later even ask if they can have a weekend sleepover. Baby steps, really.

As you can possibly see from the cover art, Shimamura has stopped dyeing her hair and let it settle back into her natural ‘slightly lighter than Adachi’ brown. They’re in second year now, and Hino and Nagafuji are now in another class. (Not to worry, the two get their own little subplot, though I continue to wonder whether the author is also making them a couple or just having them be goofy.) Adachi is still in her class… but is still suffering from Adachiness. As a result, when three other girls ask if Shimamura can join them for lunch, she says sure. What’s more, her old childhood friend, Tarumi, has called up again after their disastrous February date, and really, really wants to try again. They hang out. They get matching bear bookbag charms! And Tarumi, as with Adachi, runs up against the massive wall that is Shimamura’s blithe indifference to almost anything.

I mentioned the subplot with Hino and Nagafuji, and there’s one with Yashiro as well. Indeed, it has been brought to my attention that almost every single character in the book who is not a regular – a fortune teller Adachi meets who gives her courage, another seeming alien girl that Nagafuji meets at Hino’s estate – is from one of Iruma’s other books. Hell, even Yashiro straight up says here she’s not the same Yashiro as the one from Denpa Onna. This is almost entirely lost on English-speaking readers (I had to have it all explained to me), but it does show off how these books are filled with “treats for the fans”, sometimes to the detriment of the actual plot. I also left out the start of the book, which is probably the best part of it, in which we realize that something important happened much earlier than we expected. It is a sign of how much this book is obsessed with the transient nature of teenage relationships that nobody remembers this.

That said, the biggest takeaway for me from this book is: man, everyone is trying their hardest to indirectly shout “I love you!” at Shimamura, but indirectness just is not cutting it. It does make me wonder how much longer, or how many more crossover cameos, this series can do before it begins to wear on the reader. Someone needs to tear down Shimamura’s wall.