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.
In my last review of this title, I seemed somewhat grumpy. The manga had gotten to a place that seemed ideal to wrap up, but trundled past and kept going anyway, with any love confessions quietly brushed under the carpet. I have no doubt that, with the main manga having ended in Japan, and no light novels or anime on the horizon, there is strong impetus to keep the remaining cash-cow spinoffs running. That said, I enjoyed this volume a lot more than the last, as Puyo settles in to do what he does best: take the Haruhi characters, soften them and give them alternate traits without quite turning them into another person, and write as many heartwarming, smile-inducing scenes as possible.
I had discussed Kyon’s confession (and Yuki not hearing it) last time, and while I’m annoyed he backed off, I’m pleased to see that his experience with the alternate Nagato has affected him. He can’t pretend to go out with Sasaki, even if it’s to help her deal with a guy that’s being too forward, because it wouldn’t be right to Nagato’s feelings. Not the Nagato he knows, but the alternate Nagato. This is very Kyon, and nice to see in a series which lacks his sarcastic inner monologue and thus sometimes has him be more of a cipher than necessary. As for Sasaki, like the rest of the female cast, she seems to be aware she loves Kyon but unwilling to admit it directly. You get the sense that the ‘date me to fend off my admirer’ plan was a bit of a ruse.
Possibly the funniest moment in the series involves Mikuru, another character who’s been reduced to a minor role in this spinoff due to the AU. Here she sees Nagato trying to decide what to do about Kyon seemingly having a better choice in Sasaki, and plays up the part of the wise older student, telling Yuki that jealousy is a perfectly valid feeling to have. That said, when Yuki asks how best to approach Kyon, Mikuru gradually falls apart, as it’s clear she has little to no experience in that area either. (Yuki and Mikuru in this series are somewhat defined by the friendship they have with more extroverted, pushy people who spur them on.) Mikuru being a “failure as a sempai” is hilarious, and Yuki’s response to this is sweet.
Haruhi spends most of the volume on the edges, as she’s pissed off at Kyon and Yuki for not letting her do a band with the literature club. Interesting, the ENOZ thing happened at last year’s cultural festival, where Haruhi was just a visitor, only with Tsuruya playing the brilliant guitarist. Even more interestingly, she gets Mikuru to willingly join the band on tambourine for this year (Mikuru is less shell-shocked by Haruhi here, even if she still has confidence issues). This all leads up to the last scene in the book, though, where Haruhi goes to get Ryoko to make sure she attends the concert. Ryouko snarks on her bunny outfit, but the important thing is Haruhi willingly thanking her for taking care of getting the band on the schedule, and Ryouko saying she did it as a friend, not as a class rep. (Also, ship tease out the wazoo, but that’s just me.)
I haven’t even gotten into all the tiny little Haruhi refs buried in here (I wonder if the Endless Eight joke was in the original Japanese…), or the fact that of COURSE Kuyou is at Haruhi and Sasaki’s school in this AU, and of COURSE she’s meek and shy just like Yuki is, and of COURSE she has an adorable meet cute with Taniguchi. This is not exactly a series to read if you want surprise, or, if I’m being honest, depth. But it’s got a good heart, which is pretty much its entire reason for being, and in that respect fulfills the reader’s needs. Haruhi fans should be pleased once more.