By Hitomi Iruma and Nakatani Nio. Released in Japan as “Yagate Kimi ni Naru: Saeki Sayaka ni Tsuite” by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Jan Cash and Vincent Castaneda. Adapted by Jenny McKeon.
A couple of quick notes before we get to the meet of this second of three novels concerning Sayaka before, during and after Bloom Into You. First of all, the book assumes you are familiar with events in the 7th manga volume, which just came out over here, and also assumes you know how the manga is going to end, at least vaguely. Secondly, this is written by the author of Adachi and Shimamura, and that’s a big surprise to me, as the two books could not have felt more different. Adachi and Shimamura deliberately meandered and stayed in one emotional beat for most of its first volume, despite the multiple narrators. Whereas this book, entirely narrated by Sayaka, absolutely knows where its endpoint is, and barrels along getting there, even as most of it involves an extended flashback showing Touko and Sayaka’s first year. If nothing else, this shows you that just because a book is a tie-in does not mean it’s just dashed off.
The book begins around the time of the manga, with Sayaka first meeting Yuu and noticing her relationship with Touko. The two have nice, frank discussions in ways that neither one of them could ever have with Touko (I’ll be honest I can’t remember which of these scenes, or maybe all, are from the manga as it’s been a while since those volumes), and then takes us up to Sayaka’s confession from the 7th manga volume. We then have an extended flashback, the bulk of he book, showing us Touko and Sayaka growing slowly closer over the course of the year, despite the walls both of them naturally keep up, and also showing Sayaka becoming aware of Touko’s circumstances… and not really doing much with that information. It’s a great look at why Yuu, rather than Sayaka, is the winner here. We then end with Sayaka in college, in what amounts to a trailer for the 3rd volume, meeting who I assume is her future partner.
Again, the best reason to read these novels is Sayaka’s POV. I may have criticized the author for her narratives in her own work, but handling someone else’s character she’s fantastic, and supported well here by the translators and adapters. Sayaka sounds exactly like we’d expect, both in dialogue and in her head, and I loved the constant use of Touko’s full name in her thoughts until they get to be friends – and note this is after Sayaka says that she’s in love with her! Sayaka’s experiences in the first book help her here, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t run into her problems, and her own decisions regarding the “safe” relationship with her best friend lead to it never getting past that. And there’s also Sayaka’s own natural reserve, which gets a little better here but is still there… while watching Touko crawl around her bedroom trying to chase one of Sayaka’s cats (thank god that got an illustration), Touko notes for the first time Sayaka’s face looks “relaxed”.
So yes, Sayaka matures here but is still very much a high school student when it comes to her emotional strength. I greatly look forward to the third book, which shows us Sayaka in college, and hopefully seeing how she builds on her love. I also look forward to rereading this one day after doing a reread of the manga, to better pick up the nuances at the start of it. All Bloom Into You fans, and yuri fans, should love this.