In Volume 7 of Sweat and Soap, Asako finally got to meet Kotaro’s family which proved to be a major turning point in their relationship. Having overcome that anxiety, perhaps now the two can settle into living together for the long term and focus on the future.
Volume 8 reunites us with the couple just a day ahead of their first anniversary together. They plan to go out for a nice meal together but, unbeknownst to Asako, Kotaro has been preparing a very special gift to give her in celebration.
Unfortunately for Kotaro, Asako accidentally knocks over his bag with the gift inside and so discovers it a day early, but that doesn’t stop the two from sharing a romantic moment when Kotaro gives her the present a day early. This is especially nice for us readers who have been watching Kotaro create a unique soap for Asako since buying her birthday present back in Volume 6.
With their anniversary over and done with, the focus shifts to an upcoming company trip! The last time they took a trip with their workmates, no one knew about the two being a couple, but since then their closest friends have been told, so Asako hopes they can spend more time together than last time. Maybe she will even find the courage to join in when her coworkers decide to hold a beach volleyball competition…
Compared to the last volume or two, this book is a lot more relaxed with nothing of huge importance happening beyond the anniversary chapters. That’s not to say it’s a bad read because it isn’t, but it doesn’t pack the emotional punch we’ve come to expect from the series either. Having said that, what we do get is glimpses into how much Asako has changed since she first met Kotaro. Both in terms of how comfortable she is with him, but also in terms of her overall confidence.
We’ve gradually seen Asako’s confidence grow, but it’s rewarding to see it in full force here where she’s willingly joining in with the antics of her coworkers. She also turns someone down who tries to hit on her, which is something she certainly wouldn’t have done two or three volumes ago! It’s rewarding for the readers and, most importantly, it doesn’t feel like Asako has changed overnight, we’ve instead witnessed the gradual growth which leads to a much better payoff.
What is a shame is that we don’t get to see a lot of focus on Kotaro. He’s present and engaged in the chapters, but he’s never presented with the spotlight to explore any storylines of his own. At most we see him considering if he and Asako are moving in the right direction for eventually getting married, but that’s a fleeting moment near the beginning of the book. This isn’t a big problem by any means but it’s worth readers being aware that this is very much an Asako-focused release rather than being about the two of them.
Towards the end of Volume 8, the focus shifts to Asako being wrapped up in her head imagining her future with Kotaro, which is no doubt going to lead to new anxieties and things to worry about. This sets up well for the final three books to come without intruding on the fun storylines we’ve experienced this time around. As always I find myself eagerly awaiting the next release so I can see what’s in store for our cast.
Sweat and Soap Volume 8 comes to the West thanks to Kodansha and continues to be translated by Matt Treyvaud. The translation reads well with no issues to note and there is a page of translation notes at the back of the volume, although there isn’t a great deal that needs elaborating on this time around. Volume 9 of the series is already available with Volume 10 being released later this month!
Overall, Sweat and Soap Volume 8 offers a more relaxed story away from the drama of recent developments. While not as memorable as the books that come before it, this instalment is still just as enjoyable as ever.