By Kazuki Amamiya and Gin. Released in Japan as “Haibara-kun no Tsuyokute Seishun New Game” by HJ Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Esther Sun.
This is another one of those books where, after I had finished it, I had to double check the publisher’s website to confirm that yes, there is a 5th book in the series, and it doesn’t end here. It wouldn’t be surprising if it did. So many romcom series end with the main couple getting together, and not to spoil, but that’s what happens in this volume. I’m not too worried about spoiling it because everyone reading this series knows who the girl he loves is, and who the girl he has to reject is. It was all just a question of how long the series would drag things out. The good news is that it’s not that long. This series, despite its “back in time” premise, tends to err on the side of realism, and these sorts of “waffling guy can’t decide between two girls” situations don’t last as long as they do in manga or anime. Now, there is one spoiler left (also not much of a surprise), but we’ll get to that.
It’s back to school for our cast, and preparation for the school festival. Natsuki is still trying to decide between Hoshimiya and Uta… or so he says, but not only do we know that he’s fooling himself, HE knows it as well. He likes the girl that he’s liked since this series began. So it’s just a matter of working up the courage to confess to her, and to reject the other as best he can and hope it doesn’t destroy the friendships he’s come to love. Into this waltzes Serika, the emotionally weird girl we met in the last book, and she has a suggestion for Natsuki, especially after hearing him perform at karaoke: join a band. Join her band, in fact. He did try playing a guitar in his previous life (as well as practice karaoke), so it’s feasible. Is it what he wants to do going forward, though?
There’s a lot going on here given that it’s basically “when will he finally stop vacillating” as the main plot. We get a lot more development from Serika, who is incredibly talented and even writing her own songs. If this were a different series she’d be a new “harem member”, and she does admit to liking Natsuki, but knows that he’s in love with Hoshimiya. Indeed, everyone knows it. Including Hoshimiya, because he literally asks her to help him write the lyrics to the song he’s going to use to confess to her – something so brazen that she has to laugh, and so did I. I also liked Shinohara, the bass player, who allows Natsuki to try to help out someone who is exactly like he was the first life around. That said, the biggest surprise of the book was not that Miori was also in love with Natsuki – we guessed that – but that Reita actually *has* fallen in love with her, even knowing that she loves Natsuki. And Miori is far unhappier than she’s trying to sound about his new love being a success.
So yeah, there is a fifth book, and I assume it will delve deep into that, as well as “wait, how do these books work if we’re a couple?’. This is one of the stronger romcoms out there now. I really enjoyed it.