Rascal Does Not Dream of His Student

By Hajime Kamoshida and Keji Mizoguchi. Released in Japan as “Seishun Buta Yarou wa My Student no Yume wo Minai” by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Cunningham.

With the first two books in the “college” part of this series, I have struggled to see why it’s been ongoing at all beyond “this is now a franchise with ongoing multimedia, you will write more until we tell you to stop” coming from Dengeki Bunko. With this book, I think I’ve gotten a handle on where this is going, helped out by a much stronger “cover character” than the others, even if she’s far less likeable. The original Rascal books were, for the most part, “a traumatic event in someone’s past displays itself as external symptoms that are horrible”, with Sakuta attempting to fix things in the same way that Koyomi Araragi or Hachiman Hikigaya try to fix things, i.e. throw themselves at it with little regard to danger. But Sakuta has learned better by now, helped by Mai literally dying for him, and so self-sacrifice isn’t on the menu. More importantly, the external symptoms are now wonderful.

Sakuta is still doing his cram-school job while also attending college, working his part-time job, trying to figure out what’s up with the Santa girl only he can see, and also spending time with his girlfriend. This is a lot. The prophetic dream thing is still ongoing, and Sakuta has a dream that on Christmas Eve he’s on a train … not with his girlfriend, but with Sara Himeji, a new student in his cram school class who has had two cram school teachers apparently try to make a move on her and be fired. Sakuta is #3, and is determined to avoid that possibility, despite events conspiring against him at every turn. And there’s also the fact that Sakuta from the other world where he’s more competent has told our Sakuta that Mai is in danger because of Touko.

Sara may not be 100% likeable, but she’s one of the best characters we’ve seen in this series for a while. She’s basically not had to struggle her entire life, and people are naturally drawn to her. As a result, when something does not go the way she wants, it ends up devastating her in a way that’s pretty easy for Touko to exploit. The best part of the book is the solution to the problem, as Sakuta spends most of it doing detective work to try to find a way out of this dream future, and ends up going with “do what the dream says and see what happens. But then Mai invites herself along. Mai being part of the solution is something that works very specifically for Sara, who is poleaxed at seeing what a real couple really in love is like, and when Mai starts reeling off things she loves about Sakuta and informs her she can do this all day, it cracks the Adolescence Syndrome like an egg. You can see and hear Sara grow up.

There is an ominous cliffhanger to this book, which implies that once again the universe is out to kill Mai. That said, the title of the next book is Rascal Does Not Believe in Santa Claus, so presumably we’ll confront Touko at last.

Rascal Does Not Dream of a Nightingale

By Hajime Kamoshida and Keji Mizoguchi. Released in Japan as “Seishun Buta Yarou wa Nightingale no Yume wo Minai” by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Cunningham.

When I first saw the title, I wondered why we were getting two “singer” books in a row, and wondered if we’d be hitting all of Sweet Bullet. But no, this is not “Nightingale” as in “sang in Berkeley Square”, it’s “Nightingale” as in “Florence Nightingale”. I’m not sure if the author is TRYING to hit every single fetish, but it’s certainly true that, after commenting on the miniskirt Santa he met last time, he has to deal with several nursing school students this time around. Including, unfortunately, his old nemesis Saki. Fortunately, both of them have grown up to the point where they can actually tolerate each other in short bursts. As for the actual person who stars in this volume, we’ve seen her before as well. She was briefly in Sakuta’s high school in the “other universe” in Book 9, and he briefly saw her at college last book. And, as it turns out, she’s heavily connected to his past.

After briefly meeting up with Yuuma and Rio for a day outing, and confirming that Yuuma is quite happy being written out of the series, Sakuta goes back to trying to solve the problem of Touko Kirishima and the resurgence of Adolescence Syndrome. Of course, this being Sakuta, “trying” is perhaps too strong a word. What he ends up finding is that Ikumi Akagi, his old classmate from junior high, has been going around doing good deeds. Horrifying, right? It turns out that these good deeds are connected to a social media tag where people confess prophetic dreams, and Ikumi has been using that to try to stop the bad prochecies from coming true. This bothers Sakuta, who has first hand experience about why doing that can be a terrible idea. That said, what’s more bothersome is the fact that she’s making him remember what happened back in junior high, i.e. the events that led to the main plotline of this series.

This isn’t a harem series. Really. Sakuta has remained faithful to Mai the entire time, and the two have several lovey-dovey scenes together. It’s just that Sakuta has that combination of a bad-boy personality combined with good-boy actions that leads everyone to be drawn to him. Ikumi is no exception, and I actually want to be circumspect here, because I thought a lot of the aspects of her syndrome, as well as the cause and resolution, were very clever in a series that’s already pretty clever, so I don’t want to give it away. At heart, this is about how hard to can be to live up to your own expectations. Ikumi feels she failed Sakuta in junior high, and has never been able to get over it. Sakuta always feels like he’s doing the wrong thing, especially after going to the other world and finding a Sakuta who seemingly did everything right. We are our own worst critics.

Good stuff, even if it still feels like a series that ended at Book 9 and the publisher is locking the author in a room until they write more because it’s got movies coming out.

Rascal Does Not Dream of a Lost Singer

By Hajime Kamoshida and Keji Mizoguchi. Released in Japan as “Seishun Buta Yarou wa Mayoeru Singer no Yume wo Minai” by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Cunningham.

As we hit double digit volumes for this series, and we start what is basically “Rascal: The College Years”, it’s probably a good time to ask ourselves what we really want out of the series. Let’s face it, I’d be perfectly happy just watching Sakuta interact with the rest of the cast, no plot or dangerous supernatural phenomenon needed. Add in 40-50 pages of descriptions of subway stations, which is about the average with this series, and you could say that we don’t NEED the main premise of the series anymore. The main cast, for the most part, has accepted their past and trauma, and made a good effort at moving on. Sakuta and Mai are adults in college, and even Kaede will probably be graduating soon. There’s no NEED for what has been termed “Adolescence Syndrome”. And so, until the last page of the book, I assumed that this was the point of this volume. That the problems Uzuki had were totally normal.

You can sum up the plot of this volume as follows: “What measure is a non-airhead?”. Sakuta and Mai are now at college, and living the blissful couple life (well, except they barely see each other due to her job). He’s also tutoring two students from his old high school at a cram school, and hasn’t had to worry about any supernatural phenomenon in a year and a half. Uzuki and Nodoka, from Sweet Bullet, are also there, and Uzuki is in a lot of Sakuta’s classes, as they share a major. Uzuki is, of course, her usual lovable ditz self, and seems to get along with everyone in the class. “Seems” being the operative word. Because one day, Uzuki shows up at class, and something is… off. She’s making efforts to fit in more. She’s picking up social cues. What the hell is going on? This is so unlike her!

There’s actually a whole new mini-cast introduced here, which no doubt will get more of a look-in in future volumes. We meet Miori, who honestly seems to be Rule 63 Sakuta a lot of the time, and her obvious attempts to insert herself into his life. Ikumi, who we briefly saw in the last book, is briefly seen again, and Sakuta is still vaguely uncomfortable around her. There’s the cram school kids. I feel the author is apologizing for a lot of the old cast only making token appearances, but such is life. As for Uzuki and her issues, I thought it was very well handled and sometimes very sad, and the climax of the book was excellent. The actual resolution, though, feels not QUITE as happy as I’d have liked… especially given the OTHER new character we see at the end, who implies that this really WAS supernatural, not just Uzuki suddenly maturing. Enter Touko Kirishima.

No, it’s Touko, not Touka, this is not becoming a Tokyo Ghoul crossover. Exactly what it’s becoming is still undecided. But I will admit feeling unsatisfied that the catalyst for Uzuki’s issues was actually a third party. I will have to content myself with the fact that the conflict and resolution of it was all Uzuki, and she did very well.