My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex: “Time to Get Serious”

By Kyosuke Kamishiro and TakayaKi. Released in Japan as “Mamahaha no Tsurego ga Motokano datta” by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Gierrlon Dunn.

The subtitle of this volume serves as an accurate description of what’s inside. Of course, that’s not to say there still isn’t a great deal of broad humor in the book. I mean, Isana exists, for one. There’s also Yume deciding that the best way to seduce Mizuto is by wearing a miniskirt and cat ears, and (ça va sans dire) endless discussions of breasts, with much groping of the larger girls happening from the other girls. (Isana even notes this is the sort of thing she though only happened in light novels, implying that she’s read her own series.) That said, this is about a trip that all the main and supporting cast take, and the girls decide to use it to confess, seduce, or otherwise make things clearer to the object of their affection. Does it work out? Well, sort of. Some of the pairings are actually becoming pairings. It won’t surprise you,l though, that the main pairing remains up in the air.

The student council are planning a getaway trip to a hot springs town (given that their president’s family is loaded, this isn’t as hard as it sounds), and Yume is asked to fill out the numbers a bit, so Mizuto, Isana, Minami and Kawanami end up coming along as well. Aiba has decided that this is the trip where she stops being the teasing flirt and seriously confesses to her senpai, and so the other girls also decide to make an effort. Well, apart from Isana, who is supposedly here for art study. Kurenai ramps up her attempted seductions of Joji, wanting to lose her virginity without really thinking trough what that actually means. Minami has finally accepted the fact that she’s still in love with Kawanami, and her own attempt to be serious baffles and annoys him. As for Mizuto and Yume… LEWD HAND HOLDING.

The main couple are still hamstrung by Mizuto’s own reluctance and Isana’s presence in their life (going poly would solve most of these problems, but I can’t see the author or publisher OKing that), so it’s the other couples that carry the book. This is easily the best volume for Minami, who, once she decides to stop being an annoying bitch around her ex all the time and genuinely try to help him, turns out to be pretty awesome. Both Kawanami and Hoshibe (the senpai) are dealing with past traumas that have left them either unable to move forward or literally ill, and this book is about getting past that with the help of others. It’s also about being yourself, to a degree – Kurenai fails here because she was just trying far too hard. She’d be much better off trying to raise Joji’s bottomless well of self-hatred first. Basically, at the end of this book we have one definite couple, two “give it a book or two” couples, and Mizuto, Yume and Isana. Who remain in stasis.

The 9th book may change that, as we are reminded that where there are stepparents there are also parents, and one of them is still alive. Till then, this is a good volume in a romcom that’s enjoyable provided you can wade past the wall of breast jokes.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex: “Just a Bit More Like This”

By Kyosuke Kamishiro and TakayaKi. Released in Japan as “Mamahaha no Tsurego ga Motokano datta” by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Gierrlon Dunn.

I’ve talked a lot about the fact that this is in many ways a very typical Japanese high school romcom. There’s an obvious winning couple. But there’s also a second, losing love interest who is far more interesting than the main one, mostly because she has no filter whatsoever. Isana would be a nightmare to deal with in real life, as Mizuto and Yume have both observed, but as fiction she’s wonderful. And there’s also the fact that these are all teenagers, about 17 years old, and they are seriously horny. And this series has never been shy about its fanservice, having a very, very high “count the number of times the main characters think about breast size” ratio. This only increases with this book, as we get a new supporting cast when Yume joins the student council. There’s a cute-first year who’s short but stacked. There’s a spunky second-year who’s also… seemingly… top-heavy. Yume’s not small. Isana is very large. You get the ideqa. This book is for guys.

Yume is now on the student council, and is dealing with several things at once. The most normal is that the sports festival is coming up, and the council have to help out there. Also, one of the council members regards Yume taking first place as offensive, and declares herself a rival who will take first place in the next exams… even if that means studying a bit TOO hard. But most importantly, there’s Yume’s desire to try to break down Mizuto’s emotional walls. There’s humorous ways to try (which I’ll discuss below) and heartwarming ways, such as their joint birthday party, where we also learn that their parents actually met much earlier than either of them knew. That said… all of this may be for naught when Isana’s bra breaks during the sports festival and creates misunderstandings galore.

The funniest part of the book, if only as it has the most characters acting completely ludicrously, is where Yume gets advice on seducing Mizuto by taking a bath with him. This idea comes from Akatsuki, who does just this sort of this with Kawanami, but Yume does not really realize that Akatsuki is a TERRIBLE person to get seduction advice from. The scene almost turns heartwarming, but is also seriously funny, especially when Mizuto’s towel drops and… well, Yume’s not disappointed, at least. Other than that, Isana has pretty much resolved herself to being as blatantly forward as possible until Mizuto stops her, and most of the sexual humor in the book is hers. (Most of the painful comedy is hers as well – falling on your breasts while not wearing a bra and getting dragged along HURTS.) As for the main romantic relationship… baby steps. The presents were nice, but Mizuto is still not quite ready yet. This may take till graduation.

So yeah, another decent volume in this series. It won’t light a fire under you, but it’s cute and fun and has likeable leads.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex: “The Six Things I Couldn’t Say”

By Kyosuke Kamishiro and TakayaKi. Released in Japan as “Mamahaha no Tsurego ga Motokano datta” by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Gierrlon Dunn.

I’ve talked about this before with other series, but there is a reason why so many authors of Japanese light novels write high school romance, and it’s not only because that’s a large part of their market. It’s because high school kids don’t have the life experience most of the time to make sensible decision or to understand the bigger picture. Things that a person thinks back on in middle age as part of their embarrassing past are, for a high school kid of 17 years old, about a quarter of their life, and thus it can seem like an insurmountable object. And, of course, it also helps the author put off the couple getting together as long as possible. Yume’s there, and ready, but Mizuto has a looooong way to go, even after the revelation he has at the end of the volume. The flashbacks through the book to their middle school years shows just how much self-loathing he holds inside himself.

It’s school festival time, and naturally the step-siblings are put in charge of what to do. “Cosplay cafe” seems to be the choice, but too many classes also want to do that, so it’s up to them to find an idea that’s unique and can get past student council approval. This also involves taking into account things like long lines and plans to stop “inappropriate” behavior. As for the festival itself, Mizuto and Yume are working the morning shift, then get the afternoon to talk around the festival together. It could almost be a date!… except they’ve got Isana there with them, as otherwise she’d just be loitering in the library feeling inadequate. It’s OK, Isana. Mizuto already feels inadequate enough for both of you.

It’s probably fortunate for Yume at the moment that the school thinks Mizuto and Isana are dating, as Mizuto’s looks and general “hospitality” attitude while at the cafe are sending the girls’ hearts soaring. Serious-minded emo teen is a thing, I have to remind myself. The strong parts of this series continue to be the dueling POVs, as we see Yume convince herself that Mizuto is stone-faced and stoic while she’s a nervous wreck trying her best, and then we see Mizuto amazed that Yume has managed to change so much and mature while he remains trapped in the past and barely able to function. As with almost all series of this type, a little communication might solve everything, but Mizuto can barely manage even the smallest amount. Fortunately, Isana may still be in love with him, but she’s also playing cupid for the two of them, so she’s there to offer the right advice. Now, what will be done with that advice is another question, especially since it looks like Yume will be joining the Student Council soon.

The author says the series is no lo0nger about two kids who hate each other and is now about two kids who one-sidedly love each other. Hopefully it won’t be six more books before they get together. Till then, this is a very good romcom.