By Mai Mochizuki and Shizu Yamauchi. Released in Japan by Futabasha. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Minna Lin.
This volume was already starting off in a big hole as I read the synopsis before getting the book. I have to be honest, “I’m breaking up with you to keep you safe” is something that I really, really hate. It didn’t help that we get another of the plot devices I hate, which is the threat of rape framed as “I will despoil her”, because Virginity Is Important, Franklin. So yeah, this was already starting from a deep hole, and it’s a credit to the author that I will still likely be reading the next book. That said, they really need to accept that they are better at writing mysteries, antiquing and travelogues than they are romance, and also that the books work better in short story collections. It helps that the first half of the book does NOT involve this plot, even though it too has a trope that I’m not fond of, the “I’ve misunderstood a secondhand conversation and think my boyfriend is in love with someone else”. Honestly, this whole book is land mines.
Holmes and Aoi are dating, and are both calm and intelligent, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t free from stress. When Aoi hears that Holmes and Yoshie, the owner’s girlfriend, had an intimate conversation while in America, she knows it’s gonna be a misunderstanding but goes there anyway. After this Holmes is asked to judge a tea ceremony between two brothers to help figure out who’s going to take over the family. Unfortunately, after this, everyone’s least favorite Moriarty shows up to ruin the book. Ensho is back, trying to get Holmes to appraise an incense container and also to be creepy and threatening. After being startled that it’s actually genuine, he vanishes… only to show up at Aoi’s high school to threaten her. This is enough for Holmes, who decides to break up with her in order to keep her away from Ensho, who clearly has a vendetta.
It is suggested at the end of this book that we’ve seen the last of Ensho as a recurring villain, and thank God. It’s reminiscent of Jon Pertwee’s second season of Doctor Who, where you know who the villain is because The Master is in every story that season. He’s worn out his welcome. As for Aoi, honestly, given everything that happens to her here I’m rather stunned that she managed to sail through her college entrance exams. The “theme” of the book, such as it is, is that words can hurt and affect people even if they are aware that the words are complete bullshit. We see that with Holmes’s grandfather, father, and him, and it’s all the more startling because it’s people we know are calm and intelligent. That said, this series continues to be at its best when discussing antiques or touring landmarks of Kyoto, and those were once more the better parts of the book.
That said, the writer may be running out of Kyoto, as the next volume sees Homes and Aoi headed to Yawata City! Which, yes, is also in Kyoto Prefecture, but it’s the thought that counts. In the meantime, if you do read this for the potboiler soap opera, this will be filled with that sort of thing. For the rest of us, let’s hope it’s done.