It's the beginning of the end, and it's a good start.
Writer/Artist: Aya Nakahara
Translation: JN Productions
Adaptation: Shaenon Garrity
What They Say
When Risa and Otani are invited to Mighty and Jody's wedding on a tropical island--all expenses paid--the world couldn't seem sunnier! But when they arrive with the gang, Risa and Otani discover they're expected to share a room. Will the stress of the uncomfortable situation cast clouds on the festivities? Risa Koizumi is the tallest girl in class, and the last thing she wants is the humiliation of standing next to Atsushi Otani, the shortest guy. Fate and the whole school have other ideas, and the two find themselves cast as the unwilling stars of a bizarre romantic comedy duo.
Seiko has fallen for a boy who saved her on the train, and is determined to confess her love via baked goods. But before she can, something happens that makes her feel that she can’t live as a girl any longer. Luckily, Risa is on the scene and ready to give Seiko all the emotional support she needs to get past this bump on the road to love… And it’s a path that leads to a very familiar face. Of course, for all the supposed emotional turmoil of this chapter, Nakahara manages to imbue it with some fantastic comedy. Otani’s discovery of just what’s going on with the basketball team and the team captain isn’t quite so lighthearted. It seems that with his departure, the team is in danger of falling apart. Much like Risa cheering on Seiko, Otani has to find a way to get the team back on the right track. Some sweet emotional moments at the end of the chapter do manage to easily make up for the lack of hilarity along the way.
This volume isn’t all about the underclassmen, though. The entire gang is invited to attend Mighty’s and Judy’s wedding in Hawaii, which is the perfect tropical getaway for a group of freezing high school seniors. The only problem? Risa and Otani are the only ones who show up not expecting the sleeping arrangements that are being provided--each couple to their own room. This set-up is highly reminiscent of other shoujo romances (High School Debut comes to mind), and the ending is also easy to predict. But, again, this is Aya Nakahara. After spending fifteen volumes with these characters, she knows what’s realistic for them and what isn’t, and what’s an appropriate ending for this dilemma. Mighty’s romance is also wrapped up nicely, but that’s a minor resolution tucked inside the much larger one of Risa and Otani’s relationship. Some might be unhappy with the way that it all works out, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
A manga series this long coming to the end of its run gets me feeling a little nostalgic. Every storyline in this volume is focused on resolving some important plot points that have been running throughout the series. Seiko suffers a crisis of identity, Judy and Mighty finally get hitched, Otani's departure from the basketball team is addressed, and we get the typical "will they or won't they" storyline often found at the end of shoujo series. Needless to say, there's a lot going on in this volume. Maybe even too much. The resolutions all come one after the other, tying up the loose ends for whatever character or storyline they focused on. There's a clear break between each of the three main storylines; nothing really flows. And we know how each of the stories will work themselves out from very early on. Yet it's hard to fault the final volumes of a series for doing this and trying to give each character the ending they deserve. It's the sign that this series, which has been running for over two years in the US, is truly coming to an end. So while it might not be a perfect volume, there's so much emotional closure already starting to happen that it's hard to complain. I'd rather just enjoy the beginning of what promises to be an appropriate send-off for my favorite romantic comedy on the market.