In Volume 3 of Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet protagonist Fumi meets a rival for Akatsuki’s affections before resolving to give up on these one-sided feelings. But that’s easier said than done and life isn’t about to get any easier for Fumi as summer break approaches! With Volume 4 in hand, let’s find out what’s in store for our protagonist.
The summer vacation means a break from school, but it also means that Fumi will spend all day at home alone with Akatsuki! No matter how committed she is to putting her feelings of love aside, being around him 24/7 is going to cause nothing but problems for our lovestruck heroine. Thankfully things quickly take a turn for the better as Akatsuki’s about to head off to Kyoto on a research trip for his next book. Fumi thinks she’ll have the house to herself and, more importantly, the space to straighten out her emotions.
However, a spanner is thrown into the works when Akatsuki’s editor Kaneishi invites Fumi to come to Kyoto with them, given she’s on summer break now. Because she won’t be alone with Akatsuki due to Kaneishi, Fumi accepts the invitation and the three set out on the trip. But not long after they arrive, Kaneishi is called back to the office, leaving the other two behind to continue sightseeing.
Now in the worst situation possible where Fumi finds herself alone with Akatsuki, our heroine tries desperately to hide her feelings while enjoying the fact she’s getting to see a different side of him than usual. But all her precautions might be for nothing when Akatsuki finds her uttering something that sounds like a love confession in her sleep, luckily rather ambiguously with ‘sensei’ instead of his name, but all the same he’s left wondering what exactly it means.
After three volumes, this trip to Kyoto for the fourth instalment of Tsubaki-chou feels well-timed. Taking the pair out of their comfort zone helps move the story along, but the new location also serves to offer us some romantic scenes such as the two going on a shrine visit and getting dressed up in yukata. It’s refreshing and that’s not to say the series was getting stale in any way, but I think it’s important that it doesn’t get bogged down in the everyday.
As well as the trip to Kyoto, there’s also a chapter dedicated to Aioi, who runs into Fumi’s friend Tobiume working part-time at the local convenience store. Without Fumi around, Tobiume is bored and takes extra shifts to fill the time, so seeing Aioi brings some happiness to her day. Aioi meanwhile finds her annoying, but the more he runs into her the more he feels oddly drawn to her…?
I certainly appreciate the chance to loop back around to Aioi’s perspective as, while his introduction was important for Fumi’s development back in the first two volumes it feels like he was mostly absent last time around. And more importantly, he’s not here to serve as a love interest for Fumi at this point so he should have his own storyline away from hers. And while the focus of this volume is certainly on the Kyoto trip, there’s so much emotional weight to the whole thing that taking a moment to swap to Aioi is a good decision.
Perhaps most importantly of all, I’m pleased that we’re four volumes into the series and it feels like the story keeps moving along at a comfortable pace without re-treading ground. That’s not always a given for a shojo series, as they do tend to spin their wheels as their heroines face the tropes of the genre but I think Mika Yamamori does a good job of incorporating those same tropes without relying on them for each stage of the story. As is often the case with her work, I find myself eager to read the next volume and find out where this series is heading.
Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet Volume 4 comes to the West thanks to Yen Press and continues to be translated by Taylor Engel with lettering by Lys Blakeslee. As always there are comprehensive translation notes at the back of the book which goes into more detail about some of the food, places and customs our characters experience in Kyoto. Well worth a read for those interested!
Volume 5 of the series is currently scheduled for an English release later in November with #6 following in February. So we’re still getting through the series relatively quickly, which is certainly a delight for fans of Yamamori’s work now that In the Clear Moonlit Dusk (published by Kodansha) is almost caught up to the Japanese releases.
Overall, Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet Volume 4 opts for a change of scenery as the cast takes a refreshing trip to Kyoto. If you’ve been enjoying this one so far, then you’ll certainly have no complaints here as the story moves forward slowly but surely with the kind of confidence we’ve come to expect from this talented mangaka.
Our review copy from Yen Press was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK.