Sasaki has graduated from high school and Miyano is now a third-year so it’s not easy keeping in touch when they don’t see each other at school every day. But – perhaps because they have to make the effort to meet up and absence can indeed make the heart grow fonder – their relationship is changing and deepening. It’s also the chance at last to spend time as a couple and do the little everyday things that couples do together…
And then a chance encounter in the library brings Miyano face-to-face with Makimura, his would-be artist classmate from junior high. The last time they happened to bump into each other, Sasaki intervened, jealous of the familiar way she was chatting with him (this happened before he and Miyano became an item). Here we see Sasaki listening from behind a bookshelf but this time he realizes that there is no need for him to intervene, especially after he hears Miyano’s reply to Makimura’s observation, “You must be close.” This also leads to Miyano being able to tell her at last about the comment she made to him years ago that’s been troubling him for so long and put that particular concern behind him.
The most striking development in their relationship happens out of the blue. Sasaki has turned up to meet Miyano after school. It’s raining – but not too heavily. As they walk through the rain (not sharing one umbrella) their conversation drifts toward being old enough to drink alcohol (twenty in Japan). As they idly discuss whether a familiar plot trope (being too drunk to remember what happened) is actually a thing in real life, something far more meaningful results when Miyano suddenly says, “You can have all of my birthdays. But in exchange… I want all of your June 17ths.” Sasaki’s reaction? “That sounded like a proposal.” Miyano is then embarrassed but also doesn’t back down. “This really isn’t something that should be done offhandedly like this…”
‘And then one day, Miyano suddenly realizes he wouldn’t mind if this lasted for the rest of his life,’ reads the publisher’s blurb for this volume. Young love. So intense, yet so… ephemeral?
I suspect Shou Harusono is not going to take the more realistic path with her central couple and show us what tends to happen (as anyone over 18 can confirm) to those wonderful, idealistic, heady high-school romances when real life kicks in. That’s not to deny that every now and then, a couple that first meet in their teens are still together – happily together – decades later on. But not all of us are that lucky or that mature to be able to find their soul-mate so young. People change a great deal between high school and university – and beyond. But it’s a heart-warming fantasy – just like fated partners – and it’s impossible not to want everything to go well for the two young men in their lives together.
One of the pleasures we’ve come to appreciate in this series (and its spin-off Hirano and Kagiura) is Shou Harusono’s gift for capturing the everyday chatter of her cast so accurately. The inconsequential classroom exchanges ring true and whenever she’s using the 4-koma format (an ongoing feature of these volumes) we get a series of related snapshots of the boys’ daily lives, presented with affection and humour. Here we meet ‘new’ classmate Kyouji Shirahama, longing to find for a girlfriend before he leaves high school so he doesn’t become ‘that guy’ in later life – and then revealing that he’s acquired all his ‘life ‘experience’ through playing dating sims (Miyano silently relates to his geekiness).
However, even though we’re treated to some unforgettable moments in Sasaki and Miyano’s evolving and deepening relationship (sensitively depicted through Shou Harusono’s art) this is a short volume, containing only three chapters, padded out with extras – which, although well worth having – don’t really take the main story itself any further. From the mangaka’s afterword, it soon becomes clear that this volume was put together while the TV anime was being made, so her attentions were probably divided – and she was suffering from a problem with her trigger finger. This isn’t a criticism but just to say that when I’d finished the volume, I was just a little disappointed that there wasn’t more about Sasaki and Miyano adjusting to their new situation. Putting that disappointment aside, I note that one fun inclusion is Crossovers, three short but playful scenes. I especially like the middle one in which Sasaki and Miyano find themselves in the same train carriage as Yamato and Kakeru from Mika’s I Cannot Reach You. Miyano speculates – rather accurately – that the two are childhood friends, going on to wonder how his relationship with Sasaki might have evolved if they’d known each other since childhood. Hirano and Kagiura fans are not forgotten; there’s a lively short side story at the end (at Hallowe’en) which probably raises as many questions as it answers.
Interestingly, Shou Harusono also reveals in her afterword that ‘this entire volume was about a new perspective on Shuumei Sasaki’ and it’s well worth reading the creator’s thoughts about the older of her two main protagonists.
Leighann Harvey continues to translate this series for Yen Press and, as before, offers two pages of very helpful translation notes. Unusually, the mangaka has provided a two-page Coming Soon: Sasaki and Miyano College Edition preview (I assume this is for Volume 09?) with tantalizing panel sketches and snatches of dialogue to tempt readers. And for those, like me, who love her colour work, there are two attractive colour pages at the beginning. Next in the series is another volume of spin-off fiction, this time Sasaki and Miyano: Second Years which is slated for August, followed by Volume 09 which currently has a September 2023 release date.
Eight volumes in – and still a Teen rating – but if the mangaka carries out her ‘tease’ in the afterword, will the college years volumes achieve a Mature rating and some steamier scenes? Whatever happens, we’ll be rooting for a happy outcome for these two that we’ve grown to know and love.