By Banri Hidaka. Released in Japan as "Sekai De Ichiban Daikirai!" by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by CMX.
This volume's primary focus, besides the still simmering relationship between Kazuha and Maki, is about Kazuha's new part-time job at Honjo's family hair salon. (Probably a good thing the school has no rules against part-time jobs, like many other manga I've read.) The manga does not sugarcoat the world of hairdressing, and it's shown that the job can be pretty grueling. Of course our heroine, being the determined girl she is, is not going to get things like standing all day and dishpan hands get the better of her.
No, Kazuha prefers to angst and panic about people. Honjo's mother, who we meet this volume (and who seems to be a female him) is all right, except for her tendency to grope, but her co-worker Moritaka is one of those people who keeps a straight face and doesn't always say what she's thinking. In other words, Kazuha's worst nightmare. Much of this volume is spent with Kazuha convinced that Moritaka hates her, either because she's the new girl, or a replacement for someone else, or what have you.
Of course, in the end it's all a misunderstanding, though Moritaka *did* have issues with Kazuha's hiring. An earlier co-worker, who Moritaka took a liking to, had to quit as the doctors said her hands were getting too chapped from the hair solutions. This led the girl to getting depressed and abandoning her job, and Moritaka felt guilty that there was nothing more she could have done. Of course, this being shoujo manga, we then meet the girl again, and Akiyoshi brings her and Moritaka back together though the power of HEART.
The other major plot line in this volume is resolving Senko's crush on Maki, and her decision to let it go. You really feel for her here, as it's become crystal clear that Maki is not only head over heels for Kazuha, but completely unaware of Senko as a girl. Before she confesses, she asks Maki what he thinks of her as, and he replies bluntly "My rival," implying he feels he would lose if HKazuha had to choose between them. To her credit, she does confess, but then promptly admits to him that she's giving him up.
Balanced against this is the growing prickly relationship between her and Honjo the elder. This is the first volume where we can see that Honjo is genuinely interested in her, but in many ways he's just as bad as Maki, deciding that teasing her is more fun. Of course, his teasing can also be advice giving, which is his other bad habit. He notes that she has to choose between Kazuha and Maki, and forces her to confront what she's been denying. In the end, after her confession to Maki, he even shows up at the train station to comfort her.
I note the title, by now, makes no sense whatsoever in terms of our lead couple, but at least for the next 2-3 volumes we can pretend it's referring to Senko and Honjo. At one point she refers to him as "her number one enemy", and it's clear that, much like Kazuha, Sensko has no idea how to handle men who put her off balance.
There is a wonderful scene towards the end with Senko describing to Maki how frustrating it is being Kazuha's friend. Noting that Kazuha only thinks about things right in front of her, is idiotic at times, constantly panics, but then becomes suddenly mature and pulls through when you're expecting everything to fall apart. Seeing as the only character in this series more emotional than Kazuha is Senko, I found this dead-on analysis very amusing. Most of the characters in this series are fantastic at diagnosing everyone but themselves.
The Akiyoshi family troubles take something of a backseat here, though we do get a lovely scene with Kazuha and her sister Momoka, who is upset about her fight with Chizuru and generally feeling depressed as she feels like an only child. (The family had Kazuha and Chizuru, then waited about 3 years before Momoka, then about 3 more before having the youngest three in close succession, so Momoka feels she's the only one not part of a group.) Kazuha's advice to her once again shows off her mature side, and proves that she's an excellent older sister.
So, to sum up, I still love this series. The liabilities remain the same - her art is still too busy, something she'll fix by the time Tears of a Lamb rolls around. But really, this series is just plain happy and fun. Even the angst is touching rather than the heavy grip on your heart of a 'We Were There' or 'Sand Chronicles'. Recommended.