By Hajime Kamoshida and Keji Mizoguchi. Released in Japan as “Seishun Buta Yarou wa Siscon Idol no Yume wo Minai” by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Cunningham.
Last time I said that the book felt a bit quieter than the first two, and that goes double for this one, which I definitely enjoyed but which feels a little bit insubstantial compared to the previous books. Part of this could be that there does not seem to be any sort of danger of things being catastrophic if things don’t work out as with previous books. Nodoka’s issues do matter, don’t get me wrong, and I feel for her, but you are 100% not surprised at the solution to this particular adolescence syndrome, and honestly I feel it might have been able to be solved even earlier. That said, having it drag on does help to really hammer home the crux of those issues, and the fact that if there’s going to be any changing and growing being done, it’s going to have to be on Nodoka’s side – Mai, despite being as blunt as her boyfriend at times, is doing just fine.
As with most of this series, the book picks up where the previous one left off, with Sakuta confronted with a Mai who isn’t. When “Nodoka” also shows up, clearly with Mai’s personality, it rapidly becomes clear what’s happened. The issues involved are fairly straightforward – Nodoka and Mai have different mothers, and Nodoka’s mother wants her to be a top idol just as Mai is a top actress, which has led to stress. So Nodoka has run away and swapped bodies. Turning to Mai for comfort is not really working out for her, as Mai is not a comfort sort of girl. Plus this means she has to hang around with Sakuta all the time, who is… well, see the previous three books. She’s astonished Mai is going out with him. Unfortunately, as with prior “syndromes”, knowing the issues doesn’t solve the problem. What’s worse, they each have to take on each other’s career, and, well, one of them is much better at it than the other.
This book emphasizes that family is not something you can narrow down to “I love them” or “I hate them” in absolute terms, and that’s the book’s highlight, as I think it does a good job showing that. Midway through, Sakuta has a very awkward dinner with his father, and we get to see exactly why he feels rather ambiguous about him. At the same time, he’s also searching for thoughts on what being a parent is like to help Nodoka, and gets good, if oblique, advice. Nodoka, fitting with the “annoying little sister” box she sort of falls into, can be sympathetic, especially watching Mai in Nodoka’s body being an even better idol than she normally is, but I 100% agree with Sakuta that her over the top reaction of walking into the ocean to “drown” herself, knowing he’ll stop her, is really irritating. Fortunately, the resolution is cute. That said, one thing this book does do that won’t snap back is Mai and Sakuta’s relationship, which is now public. Fortunately, Mai is very good at damage control.
The next book’s title implies we’re going to focus on Sakuta’s own little sister next time, as she seems to be wanting to return to school… maybe. I get the feeling it will be a bit less relaxed than this book. Still, this is a decent enough volume, especially if you love Sakuta simply saying whatever he’s thinking at the time, no matter how bad it will be for him.