Nakahara's arrival at his uncle's house in Osaka is anything but peaceful, and while he deals with the latest attacks on his psyche alone, Kojima studies hard at home. The boys are reunited for a short while during New Years for their exams, but much to Kojima's dismay, Nakahara soon returns to Osaka, claiming familial obligation. With his exams finished, Kojima finds himself increasingly distracted by Nakahara's absence. Worried, but also desperately missing his friend, Kojima decides to pay a visit to Osaka.
Kojima was right to worry as it turns out, and it is his visit that ultimately saves Nakahara from himself. He'd been unable to break free of the hold his broken family had on him, until confiding in Kojima gave him the courage to leave on his own. Only one thing still worries Kojima, however, and that is why Nakahara doesn't try to be intimate with him anymore. While they were separated Kojima's every thought turned to Nakahara, leading him to recognize his feelings. Nakahara, on the other hand, had decided to hold back, afraid to lose the only good thing he has going for him. Ahh, young love! Kojima, in a surprising role-reversal, clears up that little misunderstanding, and afterwards it's full speed ahead.
Finally graduation day arrives, as does the end of our story. Nakahara, who had been lost adrift for so long without his family to hold and define him, has found an anchor in Kojima and is ready to try moving forward for himself, as himself. Their graduation is a bittersweet rite of passage into an uncertain future, but they will face it together.
This was a great concluding volume; plenty of emotion, a sexy romantic payoff, and an all-together-too-cute ending. Looking back it's surprising to see how much the characters have changed in so short a time, and how the story took on a life I didn't expect from my first cursory read of volume one. Beyond the beautiful, aching love story, this is also a coming-of-age story well beyond the connotations of romance. Little Butterfly captures so aptly the raw desperation and desire one feels, not only in the throws of first love, but also in growing up in general. I was impressed at how well Takanaga balanced their growing romance with Nakahara's personal issues, while never forgetting to add some humor, and how their (sometimes surprisingly) open dialogue never took a back seat to the romantic "action" - quite often a pitfall in this genre. Through growing pains and hardships intensified by a troubled home life, this is a fantastic story of two boys moving toward adulthood, learning not only what it means to let go, but also to hold on.
DMP has done an excellent job with this series overall. There were occasional text quibbles, but aside from the changing of the boys' ages, I've been quite happy with its presentation in general. In this last volume, the act of graduation itself serves to put in perspective their journey into adulthood, making the ages somewhat irrelevant for the US audience, though I do feel the earlier emotional impact would be better understood had their ages been properly retained. Looking past that however, this is one of the better-read series DMP has put out this year -- a sweet, cute, and utterly charming BL gem in their library.