By Sunsunsun and Momoco. Released in Japan as “Tokidoki Bosotto Russia-go de Dereru Tonari no Alya-san” by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Matthew Rutsohn.
I must admit, I’m growing increasingly frustrated with this series. I really do enjoy the romance between Alisa and Masachika, which is cute. And I also definitely like the family drama that is Masachika’s backstory, as well as the “war” he’s currently having with his sister. So basically I like the rom and the drama. The problem is the com. This book frequently tries to be funny, and while the jokes sometimes land, much of the time it’s more annoying than anything else. Masachika thinks in otaku terms a lot, as does his sister, and the conversations the two have frequently deviate into bizarre and depraved topics. Which is in character. But sometimes it seeps into the main story. The entire hypnosis chapter was ludicrously bad, and I kept waiting for a deconstruction or reversal. But no, it was exactly what it seemed. The same goes with Ayano, whose gimmick is that she’s a masochist and constantly aroused. At least she doesn’t mention uteruses. This time.
We’re still in the race for Student Council President. One of the three contenders has dropped out (and is dealing with nasty rumors about dropping out), but the other ones are still going strong. Yuki and Ayano, frankly, have things in the bag almost certainly… but it’s the almost that’s the problem, as Yuki knows that with Masachika at her side, Alisa can pull off pretty much anything. Then fate steps in, as after working himself into a frenzy trying not to scream at his mother during parental visits, Masachika gets a bad cold and is bedridden for two days. This allows Yuki to force Alisa to try to campaign on her own… and she’s wretched at it. Can a now recovered Masachika manage to help Alya regain her confidence and give a suitably dramatic, powerful speech? Or is “powerful” not what they need here?
In case folks are wondering, no, she still doesn’t realize he speaks Russian. This is despite his Russian-loving grandfather appearing, which I was sure would spoil things, especially when he meets Alisa’s mother, and the fact that, at the climactic speech, he literally says something to her in Russian, which she interprets as him learning it specially for that moment to encourage her. I anticipate a big blow-up when she eventually finds out. For the moment, though, once you ignore most of the comedy (though I did laugh at “Dammit! I forgot I was human garbage!”, this can be quite sweet, particularly when Alisa takes the lead on their not-dates and Masachika allows himself to simply relax and enjoy her company rather than being… well, himself. As for Yuki, she’s deliberately playing the villain to get her brother to step up and try again, and it’s working, but I have to wonder what it’s going to do to her own life.
So this is a flawed romcom, but the dramatic moments are good, and the lead couple is sweet. Just… try to ignore the author being funny.