Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet Volume 2 Review
Back in October Yen Press released the first volume of Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet in English. There we met protagonist Fumi Oono, who takes a job as a live-in housekeeper for author Akatsuki Kibikino. The two may have started off on the wrong foot but as we begin Volume 2, their relationship is beginning to change in ways Fumi couldn’t have imagined…
To kick off Volume 2, Fumi gets a phone call from her father, who’s stuck in bed after hurting his back. This means they won’t have enough to make their debt repayment next month, so Fumi takes it upon herself to get a part-time job alongside her housekeeping. But being a minor, she’ll have to accomplish this without telling Akatsuki, not least because she doesn’t want him to worry about her.
The debt is the least of Fumi’s problems though, as she’s also acting as a gopher to transfer student Aioi who has a grudge against her from their childhood years. Back then Aioi and Fumi took part in a contest, which Aioi was hoping to win and rekindle some happiness between his parents who were on the verge of splitting up. Since Fumi won, Aioi held it against her when his parents did eventually split and those feelings were rekindled when he saw how happy she was in high school.
However, Fumi ends up applying for a job at the bar Aioi’s mother runs and when the two run into each other, Aioi learns of the hardships Fumi faces due to her father’s debt. Now his resolve to mistreat her crumbles and he apologises for his actions so far – something I’m sure many of us are happy about!
While debt and Aioi are big parts of this volume, the majority of it focuses on the fact Fumi is starting to have romantic feelings for Akatsuki. As is often the way with shojo, this is immediately obvious to Aioi and Fumi’s best friend Yoh, but not to Fumi herself. When she does finally realise it, she pulls away from Akatsuki, reasoning that she doesn’t want to be a bother or depend on him for everything.
Fumi wants to be independent and in so many ways already is due to her previous living situation. This is in contrast with Akatsuki’s opinion who thinks she should be able to live as a kid without all of these adult concerns weighing her down. For now, he still sits firmly in the realm of being a fatherly figure to Fumi, but it’s clear to us readers and his friends that he has romantic feelings for her too. Thankfully no one is willing to tell him about this, so I imagine it will be a couple more books until he cottons on.
Two volumes in and what I enjoy most about Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet continues to be the depth of Fumi’s character. Sure, there are a lot of tropes here and the age-gap romance angle is sure to put readers off. But at the same time, author Mika Yamamori is good at creating heroines you want to root for and that remains true here. I want to see Fumi happy and living a life where she’s not constantly worried about money.
As time goes on, we meet more characters who can help and support her when she needs it too and they all have stories of their own with plenty of depth. For example: in many other series, Aioi would be a bit of a bully and that would continue for multiple books with no real explanation for it, but here the reader already has a full understanding of his feelings and why he acts the way he does. Not only that but he’s already apologised and become a dependable friend of sorts for Fumi. That’s something I really appreciate about the writing and what raises it above a lot of the current shojo titles being brought out in English.
As previously mentioned, Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet Volume 2 comes to the West thanks to Yen Press where it continues to be translated by Taylor Engel. The translation reads well with no issues to note and there are two pages full of useful translation notes at the back of the release. Volume 3 of the series is currently scheduled for an English release in April.
Overall, Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet Volume 2 continues to prove itself a worthwhile addition to your collection. It may be leaning into the age-gap romance more, but there’s still plenty to enjoy as it introduces new characters and further develops our heroine.