From now on, we’ll always be together.
Miyano has at last confessed to Sasaki. Sasaki is over the moon – but time is inexorably ticking away. He’s in the third year, so he has exams – and then he’s going to graduate and the two won’t be at the same school anymore. Dating is going to present some challenges. Sasaki burns out with exam stress and gets sick. But now that Miyano – being the kind of boy he is – has admitted that he likes him, he’s not going to let illness come between them, so he goes round to check on Sasaki and encounters his older sister for the first time. Telling their families – and how to tell them – is just one of the hurdles they’ll have to overcome.
Sasaki and Miyano has come a long way from its slightly uneven beginnings, resulting in a seventh volume that retains all the likable and realistic touches of humour in its glimpses of everyday life at a boys’ high school but at the same time delivers a touching and convincing portrayal of first love with all its insecurities and dizzying highs and lows. Miyano has matured. The first time we see this is when he tells his mother that he wants to make Valentine’s chocolate for a friend and that friend is a boy. His mother responds in a very natural loving and supportive way and it’s only when Miyano buries his face in a cushion afterward that we see how much courage it took him to tell her. (It’s also refreshing to have a mother-son scene in which the mother isn’t obsessed with the grandchildren that she thinks she isn’t going to have because her son has just told her he’s gay.) A later and equally compelling chapter explores the relationship between Sasaki and his older sister which has been stormy at times (especially when he was going through a rebellious phase in junior high) but is obviously rooted in a deep bond between them. When she finds out that Sasaki and Miyano are dating, her reaction is very emotional – but it’s Miyano who’s the one to reach out to her and talk with her in a matter-of-fact and understanding way.
As for the boys’ school friends? They’re mainly supportive – although, inevitably, it’s Ogasawara (Sasaki’s contemporary, the scowly one with the blue streaks and the demanding fujoshi girlfriend) who asks Sasaki the question that others might have been thinking but not saying. Even though, frankly, it’s none of his business and he knows it! Will this question lead to problems in the relationship later on? At the moment, Shou Harusono is leaving the issue unanswered although Miyano seems to have his own ideas already… And if readers were wondering if, now that the main couple are an item, the dramatic tension might have dispersed, then there are plenty of impediments and misunderstandings along the way, the course of true love definitely not running so smoothly (to misquote the Bard). There’s only one little extra chapter about Kagiura and Hirano this time but as they now have their own series, it feels like a mini-teaser for the next volume. However, this is very much Sasaki and Miyano’s story and if you’ve stayed with them all the way, you won’t be disappointed as this relationship feels earned (unlike many other high school romance manga). There are stolen kisses and hugs in secluded corners of the school, making the most of their last opportunity to do so before Sasaki leaves, with all the thrill of snatching these intimate moments together, knowing someone could walk in at any moment. But these chances will never come again.
Like the earlier volumes, this one has richly coloured cover art as well as two colour pages at the front, including one undeniably cute chibi image of Hirano and Kagiura. Leighann Harvey provides yet another very readable translation with two pages of helpful translation notes. The mangaka’s two-page ‘afterword news’ was written about the time the anime TV series was announced and also offers extra comments on the chapters (although for people like me who struggle with tiny fonts, it’s helpful – again – to have a magnifier to hand if you’re not reading the digital version).
After the well-deserved success of the anime TV series, the anime film Sasaki and Miyano – Graduation has opened in Japan this February and seems (from the trailer) to be mostly based on this seventh volume. No word yet if Crunchyroll will pick it up for Western audiences but, given the popularity of the TV series with viewers, we can but hope…! Thanks to Yen Press, there are plenty more treats in store: Hirano and Kagiura the novel is out this month, the second volume of Hirano and Kagiura the manga is out in March, as is the first of the two novels about Sasaki and Miyano and their friends; Volume 8 of the manga is due in May.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the double-page image of Sasaki and the third years at graduation includes bouquets of flowers – and Sasaki and Miyano are together at the centre, looking more like a bridal couple than two high school students. Is this a dearly wished-for fantasy, perhaps? Because now that Sasaki has graduated, he’ll be off to university and his life will be very different. Will the nascent relationship survive the inevitable changes that lie ahead? We’ll just have to wait for the next volume to find out…