Haibara’s Teenage New Game+, Vol. 5

By Kazuki Amamiya and Gin. Released in Japan as “Haibara-kun no Tsuyokute Seishun New Game” by HJ Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Esther Sun.

In my review of the last book I mentioned that I was not entirely sure where the series would be going after this, since it seemed to end so decisively with the fourth volume: Natsuki has confessed to Hikari, rejected Uta as best he could, and also done a “God Knows” musical moment on the crowd. But of course, having a fulfilling high school life is the goal that he had when he went back in time, and romance is not the only thing in high school. That said… it is a pretty big thing. The Fellowship is still a bit broken after he made his confession, with Uta pouring everything into basketball and Tatsuya completely remaking his entire personality. And there’s the fact that he’s childhood friends and best friends with Miori… which makes everyone think they’re ALSO dating, and makes Hikari a little jealous (though she won’t say it out loud). That said, most of what we get in this volume is the other high school mainstay: sports!

No, it’s not a full blown sports festival (which is a shame, as I wanted to see some bread eating and scavenger hunt antics), but a ball game competition. The class divides into groups, each doing a different sport. For Natsuki’s class, the boys have basketball and the girls have soccer. That’s fine by Natsuki, who has all the training he got in his past life when he was trying desperately to be a cool athlete. But the actual cool athlete, Tatsuya, is still in an incredible funk over giving Uta up to Natsuki and then having Natsuki reject her anyway. As a result, he’s trying to BECOME Natsuki, pouring effort into studying to raise his grades. But does Uta even want someone who’s “just like Natsuki”? Also, is Miori finally going to snap, or will that wait till next book?

We’ve guessed that Miori has a hidden crush on Natsuki since the start of the series, but it’s now getting a lot less hidden. For one thing, she’s dealing with nasty rumors that she’s cheating on Reita with Natsuki, because they’re both on the Sports Committee and also clearly close. She’s also not dealing with with his new relationship with Hikari, trying to distance herself from him but failing, and pulling off a genuine “What if… I was in love with you all this time… ha ha just kidding… unless?”. Most importantly, Reita is well aware that she loves Natsuki, and is basically patiently waiting for her to either get past it, confront Natsuki, or break up with him. None of those things is happening. She and Natsuki are both much better at giving advice on love than dealing with it themselves, to be honest – Natsuki is flailing around trying to figure out how to behave when dating someone, and both he and Miori are fantastic when getting their cute nerd friends to confess to each other but less so otherwise.

So yeah, it turns out that returning to high school not only gets you a rainbow-colored youth but also typical high school drama. Still a fun series in the high school romcom genre.

Haibara’s Teenage New Game+, Vol. 4

By Kazuki Amamiya and Gin. Released in Japan as “Haibara-kun no Tsuyokute Seishun New Game” by HJ Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Esther Sun.

This is another one of those books where, after I had finished it, I had to double check the publisher’s website to confirm that yes, there is a 5th book in the series, and it doesn’t end here. It wouldn’t be surprising if it did. So many romcom series end with the main couple getting together, and not to spoil, but that’s what happens in this volume. I’m not too worried about spoiling it because everyone reading this series knows who the girl he loves is, and who the girl he has to reject is. It was all just a question of how long the series would drag things out. The good news is that it’s not that long. This series, despite its “back in time” premise, tends to err on the side of realism, and these sorts of “waffling guy can’t decide between two girls” situations don’t last as long as they do in manga or anime. Now, there is one spoiler left (also not much of a surprise), but we’ll get to that.

It’s back to school for our cast, and preparation for the school festival. Natsuki is still trying to decide between Hoshimiya and Uta… or so he says, but not only do we know that he’s fooling himself, HE knows it as well. He likes the girl that he’s liked since this series began. So it’s just a matter of working up the courage to confess to her, and to reject the other as best he can and hope it doesn’t destroy the friendships he’s come to love. Into this waltzes Serika, the emotionally weird girl we met in the last book, and she has a suggestion for Natsuki, especially after hearing him perform at karaoke: join a band. Join her band, in fact. He did try playing a guitar in his previous life (as well as practice karaoke), so it’s feasible. Is it what he wants to do going forward, though?

There’s a lot going on here given that it’s basically “when will he finally stop vacillating” as the main plot. We get a lot more development from Serika, who is incredibly talented and even writing her own songs. If this were a different series she’d be a new “harem member”, and she does admit to liking Natsuki, but knows that he’s in love with Hoshimiya. Indeed, everyone knows it. Including Hoshimiya, because he literally asks her to help him write the lyrics to the song he’s going to use to confess to her – something so brazen that she has to laugh, and so did I. I also liked Shinohara, the bass player, who allows Natsuki to try to help out someone who is exactly like he was the first life around. That said, the biggest surprise of the book was not that Miori was also in love with Natsuki – we guessed that – but that Reita actually *has* fallen in love with her, even knowing that she loves Natsuki. And Miori is far unhappier than she’s trying to sound about his new love being a success.

So yeah, there is a fifth book, and I assume it will delve deep into that, as well as “wait, how do these books work if we’re a couple?’. This is one of the stronger romcoms out there now. I really enjoyed it.

Haibara’s Teenage New Game+, Vol. 3

By Kazuki Amamiya and Gin. Released in Japan as “Haibara-kun no Tsuyokute Seishun New Game” by HJ Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Esther Sun.

There *is* a serious element to this series, and it’s 100% down to “every girl is falling in love with Haibara, and he has to make some of them sad”. He’s not at a point where he can do that yet. That will likely lead to bad things down the road. Still, that’s the only REALLY serious part of the series. It’s not the sort of book that, having given Haibara a chance to redo his crappy high school and college years, is going to turn into a “no, you screwed up again, try a third time” sort of series. That said, I must admit that I was sort of on tenterhooks midway through the book. These are still high school kids, and when there’s a very strict controlling parent and a runaway kid who stays over at the house of a boy she’s clearly falling in love with, well, things could have gone very bad. As in “I will notify your parents and the school” bad. But this is not that sort of series.

It’s summer, and everyone has passed their exams, albeit by the skin of their teeth for some. This means it’s time for a summer activity. Let’s hit the beach! Everyone agrees, and they rent a nice cabin with rooms for everyone. The only issue is Hoshimiya. We’ve heard before how strict her family is, and trying to get around it by pretending there aren’t any guys going on the trip is the sort of lie that’s easily discovered. So she’s not going. Fortunately, she and Haibara manage to bond anyway, as he runs into her at a cafe, where he discovers her big, big secret – she’s a novelist! He agreed to pre-read her book, whose main characters seem somewhat familiar. Unfortunately, daddy dearest discovers this, and announces that a) she can’t be an author, and b) she has to distance herself from her friends. This goes badly.

Hoshimiya is still very much “in the lead” in this harem series, and this book gives us a much needed focus on her and her family, and shows that she and Haibara are a lot more alike than he may have realized. In fact, my favorite part may have been when she admitted that she didn’t really like him much at first because of all the fronts he was putting up. That said, of course, by the end of this book she’s totally smitten, and although you would think this would be good news for Haibara – she’s the one he likes, after all – he still can’t quite reject Uta yet. And that’s not even getting into his childhood friend, who he’s 100% oblivious to. She, at least, seems to have made her own decision, even if it hurts her, and I hope things go better for her with someone else, though I doubt it will.

All this plus a new girl, who comes on like a relatively blasé storm, and who will no doubt feature heavily in the next book. If you like good old-fashioned “who will win” romcoms, this is for you, though be prepared for your favorite to lose. That always happens in old-fashioned romcoms.