By Yuki Yaku and Fly. Released in Japan as “Jaku Chara Tomozaki-kun” by Gagaga Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Winifred Bird.
Despite what some people may think, particularly those who watch the opening of the recent anime adaptation, these light novels are not meant to be a romantic comedy. That is not to say they don’t have elements of it – they certainly do, and that’s the subject of much of this book. Tomozaki has been kicking the dating can down the road, at first simply as he didn’t want “get a girlfriend” to be a goal Hinami sets for him to tick off, but, as she correctly points out, he needs to start examining his own feelings and ask himself if there is a girl he really likes. Because there’s certainly someone who likes him… in fact, is there more than one? This isn’t a harem comedy, but it may be a love triangle, as, after several scenes showing Tomozaki accidentally being seductive (we see it, she sees it, he does not), he gets an honest to God confession. There’s just one problem – he needs to actually have some love for himself first.
Having seemingly run out of heroines to put on the cover (sorry, Tsugumi, maybe next time), Mimimi gets a second appearance, and she gets a lot to do. The school festival is coming up, which is right in her wheelhouse, even if she doesn’t actually want to be in charge of it. Meanwhile, in addition to being on the festival committee (which he volunteered for even before Hinami assigned it to him), Tomozaki is getting into social media! Yes, he has an Instagram account now, and his job is to fill it with specific photos Hinami asks him to get. This, of course, involves him getting into situations where he can easily get those photos… some more easily than others. It’s a good lesson for Tomozaki, who needs to be reminded “this is what normal teens do, and I am a normal teen”. Meanwhile, he reads Kikuchi’s stories… and suddenly knows that they should do for the festival. A play, written by her.
The whole book is filled with great scenes (as you can see by my devoting two paragraphs to a summary of it), but two particularly stand out to me. The first is when Hinami talks to him about which girls he likes, and says the idea of “I must only love one woman and be steadfast and true” is, to put it bluntly, virgin thinking. Real life is not like manga and anime (or even light novels), and high school romance does not have to be a deep commitment. Given how earnest Tomozaki is in general, I’m not sure how much he’ll take this to heart, but hey. The other scene is near the end, after Tomozaki has gone with Mizusawa to Tsugumi’s school’s festival, with Mizusawa taking on the role of teacher this time. As with Hinami, he points out that dating someone else does not have to be a OTP commitment. But after Tomozaki gets confessed to, and tries to do his usual “but I’m just a loser” waffling, Mizusawa tears him apart, pointing out (accurately) how rude that is to the girl who likes him. I actually cheered.
We may have a long wait to resolve the cliffhanger of Tomozaki responding to this confession – the next volume is a short story collection. But honestly, I think the reader can intuit the way that it’s going to go anyway. In any case, light novel readers, particularly ones who enjoyed the anime, will love this.