“Look at it from my side. How many times have I had to turn you down?” Hirano to Kagiura.
Everything had been going well for Hirano sharing a dorm room with his first year underclassman, Akira Kagiura. But then Kagiura confessed to Hirano that he had feelings for him. And just as Hirano was trying to make sense of what that actually meant, they were told that good results were essential in the allocation of rooms for the next academic year (Hirano’s third and final) and although Kagiura might be really good at basketball, his academic scores leave a great deal to be desired!
Since then, Kagi-kun has been studying hard – or trying to, because it doesn’t come easily to him – and Hirano is trying to encourage him while at the same time wondering if it’s right to continue sharing a room with another, younger student who’s crushing on him. He likes being around Kagiura. But does he like him in that way?
Various Valentine’s Day complications over chocolate occur – and then Kagi wants to know all about Hirano’s relationship with his older room-mate the year before he joined the school. “It finally hit me,” he says darkly, “you changed clothes… he got to see you partially naked, didn’t he?”
This third volume of Hirano and Kagiura will probably please Hirano and Kagiura fans but, even though I really appreciate Shou Harusono’s work and her characters, this latest collection of chapters doesn’t flow as effectively as Sasaki and Miyano. The narrative wanders along without much sense of direction and the main focus tends to be on Kagiura pining for Hirano’s affection and Hirano keeping his distance, except when he doesn’t. When Sasaki and Miyano appear together in a brief side story at the end, it’s like a breath of fresh air.
There’s something not altogether healthy about Kagiura’s obsession with his senpai and in the later chapters in the volume, some of his expressions that the mangaka shows us when he’s trying to persuade Hirano to pay him more attention are quite disturbing. His crush could be seen as evidence of his emotional immaturity; as he’s taller than Hirano, perhaps we expect him to behave in a more mature way. Although, sometimes it seems as if Hirano is – consciously or unconsciously – leading him on. By the last chapter in the book, it feels as if Kagiura is trying to wear Hirano down, trying one strategy after another until one works. It reads as manipulative as it sounds, although if we’re supposed to believe that Hirano genuinely doesn’t want to get involved, why does he agree to hold hands – for all of ten seconds! – at the end of this book? The atmosphere between the two is becoming oppressive and as there are so few chapters (the book is only 148 pages in length) it leaves a strange taste in the mouth. Especially if you count the extra chapter where Kagiura’s legs are aching (growing pains?) and Hirano offers to massage them (apparently it helped when he suffered from the same thing). Is this just an innocent gesture of help? The mangaka leaves it to the reader to make their own assumptions.
On the plus side, we get to meet Ichinose, Hirano’s senpai, who suffers badly with his stomach; the stress of examinations only makes this worse (it’s not hard to empathise with his condition!). The appearance of a new character offers a breath of fresh air to a story that’s become a little too inward-looking with a ‘will-they, won’t-they?’ that doesn’t quite convince.
Volume 3 is another nicely produced volume from Yen Press which will sit well alongside the others in the series, with Shou Harusono’s attractive cover art and four inspiring colour pages inside. The translation is again by Leighann Harvey who offers, as usual, helpful translation notes and the lettering is by Carolina Hernandez. We’ve almost caught up with Japan now (the fourth volume is already out and appears to be due out from Yen Press in December 2023).