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.

Rascal Does Not Dream of a Knapsack Kid

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

My favorite episode of Urusei Yatsura (the original, not the 2022 reboot) has Lum end up in various alternate universes and unable to get back to the correct one. We see one where everyone is the opposite gender, one where her father actually invaded and everyone hates her, etc. Towards the end, she finds a world where everything seems to be absolutely perfect… including an Ataru who actually looks to be as handsome as she sees him, saying that he loves her. The look on her face when she hears “I love you” and knows that it’s the wrong world again may be the most heartbreaking moment in the series, topped only by her little “bye bye” as she flees, trying again to get back to HER Ataru. If you’re wondering what all this has to do with Rascal Does Not Dream, then I urge you to read this volume, which may be Sakuta’s best to date.

Things are going reasonably well for Sakuta. He’s still studying hard so he can go to college with Mai, Kaede has decided to start high school at the remote learning place, and he and Mai remain lovey-dovey (or at least as lovey-dovey as Mai ever gets). There’s even more good news coming – Sakuta and Kaede’s mother is getting released from the hospital and being allowed to go home, and she wants to see Kaede. Sakuta is naturally worried about how things will go, and does his best to be a good big brother and strong grownup for his sister. And indeed, things go very well. The reunion is a big success! The only trouble is that Sakuta is still running into the little girl version of Mai. Oh, yes, and one other problem – no one can see him anymore.

The callback to the very first book (though Sakuta does not wear a bunny girl outfit, or even consider it, which makes me sad) is appropriate given that this book pretty much resolves all the major plot points that were outstanding in the series to date. Sakuta’s parents were a constant invisible pressure on the series, but we only saw his father rarely, and we never saw his mother till this book. The middle part of this book is hideously depressing, especially when (helped by the child Mai) he does get back to a world where people can see him… but it’s the wrong one, and just makes him feel inadequate. Fortunately, Rio and Mai are the same no matter what universe, and give him some support… but unfortunately, the solution is something Sakuta will have to work out on his own.

This is not the final book in the series, but it feels like it is, with Sakuta’s entire third year being skipped as we jump to his graduation. There is more to come, and indeed there are teases for future books in this one, including a new character from Sakuta’s past. For this book, though, it’s all Sakuta. He ma never get a cover picture because of the genre he’s in, but if he did, this would be the book. Also: “Other Sakuta: fix your shit” is hilarious.

Rascal Does Not Dream of a Sister Venturing Out

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

The last two books in the series were pretty much crushingly emotional, with some genuine grief and horror in them, and I imagine that readers are hoping for a slightly more light-hearted volume at this point. Unfortunately, thay may have to wait a bit longer. The eighth Rascal book is not a tragic heartbreaker like the last arc. It’s merely a quiet, unflinching study of how Kaede is trying to get better and move on with her life, and how she’s being hindered not only by her own trauma over what happened in the past, but also the way that the Japanese school system works. And, of course, there’s “the other” Kaede, who hovers over this volume like a ghost, present and influential despite already being gone. Last time Sakuta was able to go back and save Mai from being killed, but there’s no way to really save “both” Kaedes, at least not at this point in the series. He just has to support her as best he can.

Sakuta is getting ready for Mai’s graduation, and being forced to think hard about his own future. Mai wants them to go to college together, so much so that she’s taking a year break to wait for him. This means that he needs to buckle down and actually study rather than being a lazy SOB, his natural state. Things are not helped by the fact that he’s having a dream of her as a small elementary school girl. That said, studying is going to have to take second place to Kaede, whose future is far more fragile. She’s now going to school again… but can’t actually leave the nurse’s office. There are a wide variety of high schools she could attend… but with a complete lack of grades for the last two years, it’s a high bar to clear. And to make matters worse, she’s determined to go to the same school Sakuta and Mai attend. Is that really something she can achieve?

I had forgotten that Japanese education is only compulsory through junior high, so high school is optional. This makes things very difficult for Kaede, though, as with a complete lack of junior high grades, it’s hard to get into a good high school, and that makes it hard to get a good job, etc. She’s made great strides, especially now that she has recovered her old memories, but there are still certain obstacles that still traumatize her, especially relating to her old school. And there’s an even bigger obstacle beyond that, one that has her feeling guilty and unloved. Despite that, Sakuta is an awesome older brother here. He’s trying to support what she says she wants to do, coming up with contingency plans on what to do if that fails, and not pressuring her. There’s also an extended section on remote learning schools that is very good at showing how they can be a help if you find the right one, while also showing that everyone automatically thinks they’re sketchy.

Aside from a plot twist near the end, which I found a bit unbelievable, this was an excellent volume in the series. I do wonder how it would be animated, though… perhaps that’s why there hasn’t been any ore of the anime since the movie. In any case, next time we resolve Sakuta’s new dream. Till then, fight on, Kaede!