A side trip to Kyoto that might at first make you think the series is lapsing turns out surprisingly well.
Translated by:Christine Schilling
Adapted by:Mallory Reaves
What They Say
New mysteries and conflicts awaken when Amane, Hyoue and Ateko encounter a childlike demon and an old acquaintance of Hayato's. Friendships are reforged and feelings born anew as the trio enjoy their last days together before Amane's forced wedding. Amane is torn between her duty and her heart - but just as she and Hyoue seem to be getting closer, Amane makes a shocking decision!
The time for summer vacation has arrived, and that means it's time for the gang to take a trip. To seasoned readers this can be a red flag. "Let me guess," they say. "The beach. Bathing suits. Embarrasing situations. Stupid romantic misunderstandings. Watermelon." Readers may be excused for thinking volume nine of Her Majesty's Dog would unfold along those lines. They may be delighted when it doesn't.
So it scores some points by staying away from the dumb beach. That doesn't mean the story is going to be any good. It might be just a different kind of filler. But this volume works out a lot better than I originally expected. It begins by tying up a loose thread from awhile back. Ateko is still smarting from the revelation that Amane is destined for an arranged marriage, and this has driven a wedge into their friendship. So Ateko storms off to Kyoto to stay with her grandmother during the holidays. Amane, with atypical assertion, decides to follow her. But that alone isn't enough. Ateko is determined to keep her distance. Things would remain at this impasse if Aoi didn't take matters into his own hands and deal with the problem in a way that only he would think of - but which turns out to be surprisingly effective.
With that key relationship restored the story can get out and about turn its attention to even better quarry. The chapters that follow show Amane and Hyoue dealing with a little local demon trouble; and this may be the best story of its kind that the series has told yet. Hyoue in particular has some good moments since he's the one who can see both points of view, demon and human; and can therefore communicate the demon point of view to the humans (and by extention, to the reader). It's only natural that his take on the situation is the most interesting, and so it's also more interesting to watch him handle it - especially when children start disappearing and an onmyoji is called in to take down the demon. In Takahashi's hands the demon becomes one of the most sympathetic characters in the entire series. His story reflects a deep affection for the countryside and its people; and also its myths and legends. My long-abiding love of the forgotten and neglected was irresistibly invoked. I believe I enjoyed these chapters as well as anything this series has offered me.
The final surprise of this volume is that, for all its initial feeling as a stand-alone piece, the end of it is tied into the larger story very skillfully. Amane makes the fateful decision that sets everthing in motion for the final arc. I only hope it'll be as good as what I just read.