By Makiko Nagaoka and magako. Released in Japan as “Keiken Zumi na Kimi to, Keiken Zero na Ore ga, Otsukiai Suru Hanashi” by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Adam.
Other folks have said this besides me, but I will join in: the least interesting part of this series so far is the relationship between the two leads. He’s a nice guy. She’s a sweet girl. They’re really cute together. Which is fine, but you can read more interesting versions of that in 8-10 other stories from J-Novel Club or Yen On. Where it holds up better is the “gimmick”, so to speak, where it tries to walk a fine line between telling a teenage girl she doesn’t have to have sex to be in a relationship while also asserting that there’s nothing wrong with having it once you want to. Once the author and editor had that idea, that’s what this book was going to HAVE to be, because if it became “I will save you from the terrible things you have been doing”, it would have been the worst thing ever. That said, the guy… takes a while to get there.
Ryuto Kashima is a standard potato-kun light novel protagonist, who does not have the looks or confidence to be on the cover next to his girlfriend. He’s a shy, introverted guy who pines after Runa Shirakawa, the gorgeous, trendy, and confident girl in his class. The rumor mill says that she’s gone out with a ton of guys, and they’ve even had sex with her, but none of the relationships have lasted. Ryuto, of course, is content to just pine away, but when he loses a bet and is dared to confess to her, he goes through with it, figuring she’ll reject him and he can rip the band-aid off and get on with life. To his surprise, she accepts… and that evening, they end up at her house, with her father and grandmother away. Is this it? Is he going to have sex with the hot girl?
If you were thinking that yes, he is, I suspect that light novel romcoms must be a constant disappointment to you. As it turns out, Runa (whose parents got together in middle school, and she focuses on that and not the fact that they’re now divorced) thinks that having sex with a guy is just what you do in a relationship, and is absolutely boggled when Ryuto tries things like thinking of what she wants and asking her about her hobbies. That said, she’s not annoyingly naive, and the disconnect comes from a sensible emotional place. It took me a long time to warm up to Ryuto, who has an awful lot of “no one could ever likle such a giant loser like myself” vibes that he has to struggle with. His 4-page long monologue about bubble tea shops won me over, and also won Runa over. (Runa expects that he will break up with her soon, like all guys have done, so any genuine affection for anything is amazing.) As for the other major character in this book, I suspect she will be the focus of Book 2, so I’ll save her for then.
The book does what it sets out to do, which is to say “indicate that slut-shaming is bad”, and I hear the anime (currently airing) is pretty solid as well. I just hope that Ryuto and Runa can be a bit less… vanilla in their relationship. Just because you’re not having sex doesn’t mean that hand-holding should take 60 pages.