By Nagaru Tanigawa and Puyo. Released in Japan as “Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu” by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Ace. Released in North America by Yen Press.
This volume of Nagato Yuki-chan is pretty much impossible to review without spoiling the major plot twist that happens in the first chapter, be warned.
So, when we last left Yuki, she was about to be hit by a car, ending our cute little AU spinoff before it really began. Luckily, it doesn’t do major physical damage. That said, there’s something… odd about Yuki after the accident, which Ryouko, being the perfect best friend and oneesama, figures out right off the bat. Yuki seems more serious, speaks more precisely, isn’t a giant goofball, and acts more like another Nagato Yuki that readers may be far more familiar with. Yes, that’s right, this series that is an AU spinoff of a movie where Kyon crossed over into a world where Yuki was a shy adorable human is now crossing back over with the canon and dealing with a very different Nagato.
Please note that nowhere in the actual text does it say this. Indeed, there’s very little ‘explanation’ given at all. Yuki has an alternate personality due to the accident, which acts much like Nagato from the main Haruhi series, and everything resolves at the end of the volume with a similar lack of explanation – her mind re-orients itself and Nagato essentially says goodbye. Indeed, some may argue it’s not the canon Nagato due to the amount of emotions shown by this version – ranging from embarrassment at her stomach growling to a full-on body blush when Ryouko suggests that she may be in love with Kyon. But then again, Nagato in canon is an alien whose emotional growth is deliberately stunted by her masters. Here, she’s in a real human body and has no such tethers. So dealing with these feelings makes sense.
More to the point, Ryouko and Kyon’s reactions to this new Nagato are pitch perfect (Haruhi and Koizumi are conveniently absent for tests, so this book is pretty much just Kyon, Nagato and Ryouko). They’re both worried about what’s happened to Yuki, but both instinctively realize – even if Kyon’s much better at expressing it – that this Nagato is also her own person and shouldn’t just be treated as a clone or as if she’s “taken over” Yuki’s body. (Ryouko worries even more than usual here – also, great meta-joke about her saying she’ll just stab Kyon to relieve her stress.) There is a lack of conflict here that in most series would serve to make things rather boring – but this is the light and fluffy Suzumiya Haruhi spinoff, so it makes sense that there’s no accusations or attempts to return Yuki to her head – just calm acceptance, patience, and watching Nagato grow as a character of her own – to the point that she also falls head over heels for Kyon.
I’m not sure what the fallout from all this will be – whether Yuki will have memories of the time she spent as Nagato (it seems unlikely from what little we see) or whether Kyon will be able to deal with a love confession that wasn’t really – but I will admit that this volume really is a major step forward by Puyo, and the best in the series. Which is still light and frothy, but now deals with its characters on a level equal to its source.