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.
If you don’t want to know who Tomozaki ends up with at the end of this book, be warned I talk about that, but not till the third paragraph.
There’s a lot of metatext in the Tomozaki series. To a degree, it’s deconstructing these sorts of high school romcom series, especially the way that the lead tends to be this asocial schlub who nevertheless has the plot revolve around him. As we’ve seen, it’s only when Tomozaki makes an effort that he gets noticed and gets romantic attention. That said, the series has not forgotten that it’s also a real story and that realistic things need to happen, and as such we get a resolution here to the love triangle between Tomozaki, Mimimi and Kikuchi. But there is a little niggling thought at the back of the reader’s head, because at its core this series is about two people: Tomozaki and Hinami. It’s not a matter of “first girl” or anything, it’s a matter of who gets the most narrative attention. And therefore the most interesting part of the book is when Kikuchi, who sees things from an author’s perspective, tries to abandon her own ship and pair Tomozaki with his *real* girlfriend.
Gumi is on the cover but is just a minor part of this book, which revolves around the culture festival. Tomozaki is dividing his energies between Mimimi and her comedy routine and Kikuchi and her play. What’s more, Hinami is setting him goals that require him to enter one of the girls’ “routes” by the end of the festival, without waffling or putting it off. The trouble is, Tomozaki is still trying to figure out how love and romance work. This can be quite funny, especially when he asks Nakamura for advice, but it’s also really making him miss the forest for the trees. In addition to this, Kikuchi is having trouble with the character Hinami is performing in her play, so she and Tomozaki interview people from Hinami’s past… with some very confusing results. Then we get the festival itself… and Tomozaki realizes he may have been rejected by a “Dear John” play.
I have to feel absolutely horrible for Mimimi. She’s a great kid, and a wonderful character, and her reaction to Tomozaki choosing someone else is very well-handled (possibly as it’s not Hinami he chose). But come on, when someone has to choose between two girls and you come in third, that’s just mean. Kikuchi gets it, though. Mimimi isn’t even on her radar, she knows where the narrative of this story is going, and it’s Hinami. That said, thanks especially to Mimimi kicking his ass, Tomozaki won’t let this lie, and reminds Kikuchi that “this is a story” can only take you so far. I also really liked the idea that it’s possible to be an idealist *and* be selfish, and that it’s not wrong to want to have it all. As a result, by the end of the book, he and Kikuchi are a couple.
Will they be a couple by the end of the series? Mmmmmmm… questioning. After all, there sure was a lot of Hinami baggage dropped in the middle of the book and then just left there. She is the other protagonist in this book. (Also, notably, Tomozaki never said “but I’m not romantically interested in Hinami” or tried to contradict Kikuchi’s play, which surprised me.) For the moment, though, Kikuchi is best girl, and they do make a great couple. As for Mimimi fans… at least she gets the manga spinoff?