By Hitoma Iruma and Non. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Molly Lee.
When I started this book, I had a very low bar I wanted it to clear, and to its credit, it did. I said on Twitter I was looking for Shimamura to be slightly more interesting and for Adachi to be slightly more gay. On one of those points, the book sails over the bar easily – Adachi’s freaking out about her love for Shimamura, what that says about her, what that says about Shimamura, trying to confess while also desperately hoping she is never found out, and (towards the end) realizing that yes, there is a physical desire in this love as well is probably the highlight of the book. As for Shimamura, sadly, she still narrates a large chunk of the book. She works best when around people more interesting than herself (i.e. the rest of the cast) and especially when she is dragged in an odd direction, which she just goes along with because she’s that sort of person. We saw this last time with the alien girl, and we see it here with her friend Nagafuji.
The book revolves around Christmas in Japan, meaning it’s a lover’s holiday, and also you eat fried chicken. Adachi, trying to convey her feelings without actually doing so, wants to invite Shimamura out to spend the day with her. The first third of the book or so has her working up the courage to do this. The second third splits our heroines into odd pairings – as I noted above, Shimamura and Nagafuji go to get a nice present for… well, for Adachi, but Shimamura, who is not completely clueless about what’s going on here, says it’s for her little sister. Meanwhile, Hino, the other half of “those two girls”, goes to the same mall with Adachi to help her get a present for Shimamura. In the final third, the two go on their not-date, have a relatively nice time, exchange presents, and Adachi tries to confess but doesn’t quite make it.
As with the last book, I think the strengths here lie in the unexpected making an appearance. In this book it’s the boomerang, a ridiculous present to give but also one that appeals highly to Shimamura, who falls in love with the image of Adachi throwing it. (Adachi isn’t wild about it, but it’s a present from the girl she likes, so it’s fantastic. She frames it on her wall. No, really.) I was also somewhat surprised that the book may be trying to pair the spares already, which given its tiny cast makes sense, I suppose. There are a few tiny scenes where you get the sense Hino and Nagafuji are also edging closer to each other, but again, they aren’t quite there. The entire book contrasts comfort (the same old thing every day) with danger (a risk of losing it all, but a big reward if successful. In the end, Adachi chooses to try to fall between the two poles, asking if Shimamura is not just her friend, but her BEST friend. Which, well, she is. For now, I guess Adachi will make do with that.
The flaws of this book are obvious: it still tends towards the dull and ordinary, and even the space alien girl is proving to be just another one of the cast now, hanging out with Shimamura’s younger sister. Oh yes, and there’s a jarring scene at the start when Shimamura, swimming at a fitness center, spots a creeper watching the little kids getting swimming lessons and saying “ew”. It’s meant to be slice of life, and I’m sure this does happen in Japan, but it felt out of place, and I wanted Shimamura to do something about him. Overall, though, if you liked the first book you should like the second. I do wonder how long it can string this out till Adachi finally confesses, though.