The bit of future story at the beginning of this volume reveals a stunning amount of information about upcoming events and it’s not hard to see how things begin to derail as the volume continues. As Hachi focuses on getting Nana and Ren back together with the magic of Valentine’s Day chocolates, Reira abandons all her defenses in pursuit of her long-held love. Meanwhile, Ren is falling further into darkness all on his own. Shin is released on probation, but it’s a bittersweet moment at best as Nana lets out all her own anger and frustration out on him. Though Shin and Nana reach an inspiring agreement by the end, there’s a pervading sense that it’s all too late to change anything significant in their futures.
Fans of Hachi will have a lot of difficulty with this volume but since that is due only to Ai Yazawa’s incredibly insightful writing, it’s hard to complain even with the sensation of a rusty knife twisting in one’s gut. Also, even though it is an incredibly painful volume when viewed from Hachi’s point of view, there is also a sense of impending freedom if one can shake off the accompanying humiliation enough to get there. “No matter where Takumi went, even if he completely forgot about me when he was gone,” she says in one of the volume’s between-chapter narrations, “I thought I had to make a sanctuary for him to return to when he got tired. That’s the only way I could win.” It’s one of the saddest narrations in the series so far, and that’s saying quite a lot.
Yazawa is brilliant in this volume, capturing the feelings of each of these damaged characters as though they were all her. Even Yuri shows unexpected depths in this volume, as she’s finally face-to-face with a real break in her career which would upset the plans she’s made with Nobu. As painful a destination as everyone seems to be imminently headed for, this story remains so poignant and so real, it’s impossible to leave the road.
Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at PopCultureShock.