By Yuki Yaku and Fly. Released in Japan as “Jaku Chara Tomozaki-kun” by Shogakukan. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Winifred Bird.
I’m not sure this series has ‘arcs’ like some other light novels, but there’s no denying that this third volume feels like the end of part one and the start of part two, and it would not surprise me if the upcoming anime decides this is a good place to wrap things up. Here we see Tomozaki finally go on the movie date with Kikuchi that he didn’t do in the last volume, and also invite her out to fireworks, This is part of Hinami’s life plan of getting him dating a girl by the end of summer break. Along the same sort of lines, he goes on a group barbecue/camping trip with the main group, tries to help the others get two of their friends together, and even gets a part-time job. He’s come a long way. The question is, how much of this is him being genuine and how much of this is him doing what Hinami says? And is Hinami really all that successful at life anyway?
The first 3/4 of this volume is merely very good, showing off the characters and situations we like. Tomozaki’s date with Kikuchi is indeed as adorable as expected, as is the fireworks viewing, and it’s her pure and basic honesty that helps him decide how to move forward (and, also, that dating her because of a gaming strategy is not a thing he wants to do). Crucially, she finds it easier to talk to him when he’s not trying to be a “normie”… but doesn’t reject the fact that he’s trying harder. The bulk of the middle of the book is the campout, and it’s fun, and also reminds you that these are, at heart, immature teenagers: a discussion of which girl in the group is hottest revolves around breast size, and Tomozaki may be the first character I’ve seen to canonically get a large penis (it comes up in guy talk), as opposed to in fanfics written about a character.
The last quarter of the book is where things really take off. Misuzawa has seen what Tomozaki has been doing, and finds his odd combination of “trying to be normal” and brutal honesty refreshing. So he tries to open up to Hinami… which goes disastrously. The afterward with her and Tomozaki also goes disastrously, leading to a break in their “teacher/student” relationship and for Tomozaki to backslide into old habits. The best part of this is that it doesn’t reject either premise: Tomozaki’s honest niceness and desire to not do something if he doesn’t want to is a good and sensible thing… and at the same time he dislikes the old, don’t care about appearances or posture self that he gained by learning with Hinami. He likes the fact that he grew as a person… he just wants to do it without moving into uncomfortable directions, like “date the library girl because I told you to.” Best of all, he manages to get Hinami to acknowledge this and start coaching him again, which is a big get given she was ready to completely shut him out of her life.
So another excellent volume, and it also shows that moving forward it will likely be Hinami who has the much harder road ahead. That said, Izumi is the cover girl for the next volume. This has rapidly become a must-read series.