By Izumi Tsubaki. Released in Japan as “Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun” by Square Enix, serialization ongoing in the online magazine Gangan Online. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Leighann Harvey.
As Tsubaki’s other major series, Oresama Teacher, reaches its end soon in Hana to Yume, it does feel odd that Nozaki-kun also looks to be headed towards an endgame. You’d think that she’d want to be able to devote even more attention to it. And yet it’s understandable. First of all, because ‘headed’ towards an endgame is an exaggeration. Slouching towards and endgame, perhaps. Meandering. Secondly, because no matter what happens to all the other couples in the series, Nozaki and Chiyo will always be lagging behind. The first two chapters in this volume deal with Kashima’s little sister, who is nothing like her at all, and also enjoys imagining everyone around her – everyone – in a pairing. Except, of course, Nozaki and Chiyo. She just can’t see it, much to Chiyo’s intense frustration. Then again, she only has herself to blame. She could try being a little more direct. Not that this always helps… look at Seo for a good example.
Seo has pretty much played out having fun with Wakamatsu over the Lorelei thing, and is also coming closer to wanting them to be a real couple, so finally decides to tell him outright. Well, almost outright. She goes to Nozaki and Chiyo for her plan, and they all try to imagine very manga-influenced scenarios that range from quite realistic to the usual completely ludicrous. The payoff comes towards the end, when Seo a) feels nervous talking to Wakamatsu about it, another sign of her growings feelings, and b) didn’t think of the immediate, most obvious result of this: Wakamatsu doesn’t trust her and doesn’t believe her. You’d feel bad for her if it weren’t Seo, but it is. So it’s just funny. (Incidentally, her brother does even worse in his own doomed romance, and we also discover that even the couples who DO get together in this series are giant flaming wreckages.)
As for Hiro and Kashima, it’s always been the most popular pairing in this series by far, and the end of the volume deals with it, as a hypnotism attempt gone wrong leads to Kashima forgetting who Hori is, which naturally upsets him a lot more than he’d like. The endgame of this, after the usual silliness, leads to a rare genuine moment in this manga with Hori saying (with a blush) he prefers the normal Kashima, and her (with a blush) actually understanding what he’s saying. Now, there’s a minimal chance this will actually lead to anything next time, but it’s still nice to have this bone thrown to us in a manga that still enjoys mocking romances more than having them (witness Chapter 103, which cycles through almost every single shoujo manga cliche in one single chapter).
There was a long break between volumes this time, so I’m not sure when we’ll see the next one. (Oresama Teacher is also down to about a volume a year now.) But it was worth the wait, giving the usual mix of hilarious subversion of manga romance while also trying to eat its cake as well.