By Negi Haruba. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Weekly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Steven LeCroy.
(Obviously this spoils who Futaro chooses, though if you read Vol. 13 you should already be spoiled.)
There has been a decided pushback in the last couple of years away from “no ending” harem series. Harem series in general are always a tough sell, because they’re wildly popular… at first… but unless you make the “winning girl” clear from the start (and even if you do – see Love Hina, for example), fans will pick their choice and get very very angry with the author when it doesn’t go their way. For a while, authors tried to avoid that by having the ending be open and ambiguous. That went so badly that it destroyed some careers (see: School Rumble). Sometimes the author is determined to have his choice win despite the fact that almost his entire fanbase wants someone else (hi, Hayate the Combat Butler). We’re even seeing right now a series which literally is a “choose your own path” ending for 5 different girls (We Never Learn). Of these, The Quintessential Quintuplets has the most “traditional” harem ending. A girl is chosen, the fans get upset, and the series rapidly comes to an end. Perhaps too rapidly.
In terms of the actual girl chosen, I liked the ending. Of the five, it was always going to be down to three (Ichika shot herself in the foot during the school trip, and Itsuki finally realized her feelings for Futaro AFTER he confessed to Yotsuba, so was a non-starter), and the author surprisingly chose the least likely of those. Miku had the “yamato nadesico’ vibe to her, and was the first girl to really show Futaro her feelings. Nino was a dark horse at first due to her actions, but proved to be the most direct of the quints, and her popularity soared. But no, in the end it went to the girl who has spent the entire series denying a) that she’s in love with Futaro, and b) when that didn’t work doing everything in her power to hook him up with one of the others. That said, when the backstory came out, showing that it was Yotsuba who was Rena (most of the time), it started to become clear that this is where the author was heading.
The biggest argument against this final volume that isn’t “he picked the wrong girl” is that it’s rushed, and there’s no denying that. Leaving aside that the author felt a need to show his homework at the start of the book, showing off all of the moments where Futaro and Yotsuba grew closer and bonded (it feels like, even though the author was careful to show that Yotsuba was his choice all along, a montage he wouldn’t need if it were Miku or Nino) the aftermath flies by, to the point where only five chapters after confessing his love Futaro is (accidentally) asking Yotsuba to marry him. Some extra time and extra angst would have been nice. That said, there are tons of lovely scenes in this book. “”I won’t let you get away!” (She got away.)” Miku’s “I’m Yotsuba”, possibly the funniest pages in the entire series. The reverse “kabedon” on the train. The other quints grinning at Yotsuba saying “Futaro” instead of “Uesugi-san”. And, of course, everything about the wedding is a giant bundle of heartwarming.
When this ended in Japan, textual spoilers made it sound like it was choosing an “it was all a dream” copout. Context shows that isn’t the case (and an epilogue helps), but still, I think the author did not need to add to his troubles like that. That said, in the end I was pleased with this series, which kept fans guessing right up to the very end, something most harem series are not able to pull off.