By Nagaru Tanigawa and Puyo. Released in Japan as “Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu” by Kadokawa Shoten, serialized in the magazine Young Ace. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Paul Starr.
And so we come to the end of the Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, and it feels thematically appropriate that Yuki doesn’t exactly disappear but she definitely takes a back seat in this final volume, entirely devoted to Ryouko’s decision to move to Canada to live with her parents and go to college there. It feels appropriate because, no offense to Puyo, but Kyon, Yuki and their relationship have been the weak part of this title. Yuki’s been OK, and I’ve enjoyed seeing her gain a certain level of confidence, but Kyon is a pale shadow of his self from the main series. They only shone in the amnesia arc, which featured what was essentially Yuki from the main series crossing over.
No, the big achievement of this series has always been Ryouko Asakura, written off as a villain in Haruhi proper (and don’t get me wrong, she made a wonderful villain), then turned into a comedy punchline by Puyo in his other Haruhi series,the gag manga Haruhi-chan (which is still running, by the way – Vol. 11 comes out here in December), but in the Nagato spinoff she became the main reason to watch it, easily having the most depth and emotional pull while also gaining an alternate characterization as Yuki’s “mother” figure who is also overly stressed and worrying to the point where, when being around her, Haruhi ends up being the deadpan straight man figure.
Ah, yes, Ryouko and Haruhi. Folks who’ve read my other reviews of this series know that I’ve shipped them almost as soon as they had significant scenes together, and the tenth volume, while not, of course, making anything canon, is written as if the author read my reviews and said “let’s see what I can do with that”. Being unable to tell Yuki straight away about her decision to move, Ryouko opens up to Haruhi, who alternates between being a sounding board and being a complete goofball (trying to stand on the exercise ball, and the goose egg punchline that follows, was amazing). Haruhi immediately says she will fly to Canada to visit Ryouko – her “free room and board” line implying she’ll just stay at Ryouko’s – and when Ryouko does eventually fly off, Haruhi’s farewell is given a full page, as is Ryouko’s response – more than Yuki!
We then get the epilogue, where Haruhi ends up being the only one who picks up Ryouko at the airport returning from college. There is a brief attempt at heterosexuality, but it’s almost laughable – Haruhi had absolutely no idea Koizumi liked her till he confessed, her “try to make me fall for you!” line implies she hasn’t yet, and Ryouko points out it sounds like she’s just trying to dodge the entire issue. Koizumi is, of course, nowhere near the finale, which is composed of the four “main” character finally meeting again after so long – Kyon and Yuki, now living together (though, despite Ryouko’s fervent imaginations, not with child) and Ryouko and Haruhi, who may not be an explicit romantic pairing but certainly are given as much canon teasing as is humanly possible.
So, in the end, is The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan worth it? It certainly was to me, but as I’m sure you noticed, I wasn’t really concentrating on the main plot. The art improved as it went on, but that does mean it starts as “very mediocre”. In the end, I recommend it to Haruhi fans who want to see a different side to Haruhi, one that is milder and more mature but still clearly her. I also recommend it to Ryouko fanatics, but honestly I’d hope they were already reading it. I enjoyed some volumes more than others, and it could have been shorter, but I adored the final volume.