Saturday, March 27, 2010

I Hate You More Than Anyone! Volume 6

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.

First off, I'm not certain if it's my copy of just a general thing, but the early pages of this volume have some bad original pages, with some of them looking blurry. Luckily, it seems to go away after a chapter or so. I'm not sure what original art CMX uses for their books, I usually assume it's the Hakusensha tankobons.

In any case, this volume - Six Hate, as the author abbreviates it - begins where the last one left off, with Arata confessing to Kazuha. After realizing that he's serious, she starts to slide into self-hatred, feeling that her aggressive cluelessness was 'leading Arata on'. It's slightly wearing, and one of the joys of seeing IHYMTA advance the plot is we see this from her less and less. (It does lead to some wonderful expressions, though. Hidaka-san's facial expressions are one of the top 5 reasons to read her books, as she can convey so much in a single piece of art. Especially the comedy expressions. Check out Senko on Page 106.)

Eventually she lets him down, noting that while he's her 'best guy friend', she can't see him that way. (This is not only an extremely common trope in shoujo manga, but in Hidaka-san's own works - readers of V.B. Rose will be seeing the same thing happening right now with Ageha and Nagare.) Luckily, he has his emergency backup girl, who realizes, after he drops by to confess he's been rejected and try to make up with her, that she loves Arata despite his faults. She confesses to him at their graduation, and all seems well. (The author's note says we'll see more of them after this, but for the most part we don't. Much of the latter half of IHYMTA suffers from compression, and Hidaka freely admits the editors told her to compress and leave out plots to hurry the story along.)

Meanwhile, Kazuha wants to buy Maki a present, and goes out shopping with Chizuru (who is still having issues with his 'sister complex'). She buys Chizuru some earrings, showing that she's forgiven that particular 'rebellious' streak of his, and then decides to get Maki some as well. Blue ones, since Maki already wears red. Chizuru, annoyed and jealous of Maki, runs off with them and crashes into another guy, who helps Kazuha catch him. The guy looks smug, blond... and slightly familiar. He also seems to know who Kazuha is. I note that we also see briefly another guy in this chapter, Nijo, who sees Chizuru at the store and remarks how he admires Chizuru's rebellious spirit. We had seen Nijo in an earlier Akiyoshi story, pre-IHYMTA, as Chizuru's friend in high school, so thins is another great example of Hidaka doing some retroactive filling-in continuity in her work. I do hope one day someone might pick up the 4 volumes worth of Akiyoshi stories still out there.

Meanwhile, Senko and Honjo meet again, and things go as they've tended to go with these two - he mocks and teases her, and she rages. There's a wonderful section on page 84 where, to stop her stomping off, he yanks on her long hair - and then briefly pulls it up to his mouth, kissing it with a smile. Honjo has genuine smiles so rarely in this series that it's almost startling, and confirms to the reader that he is attracted to her. Senko, meanwhile, is startled by the expression as well, and tries to insult him to death - something that is next to impossible with Honjo. This is counterbalanced by Kazuha getting an old photo of Maki and friends from middle school, which shows Maki with a grumpy, serious face, and Mizushima looking smirking and evil. She finds this younger Maki intriguing.

After a brief Akiyoshi family scene (Hidaka really does write a large family scene very well), we're now into Kazuha's senior year of high school. And oh my goodness, they have a new mystery teacher! Who could he be! If you said it's the blond guy she ran into earlier in the volume, you clearly know your shoujo manga. His name is Saki. Saki Sugimoto. Yes, that's right, he's an estranged brother. Well, half-brother. He grows close to Kazuha very fast, and admits that he doesn't want Maki to let him know he's there, as Maki hates him. Aw, poor guy! I'm sure Kazuha won't worry about that at all! She's not the type to - oh wait, she so is the type to do that.

This is complicated by her giving Maki the earrings. He loves them, but for some reason, when he sees the blue earrings, and she talks about thinking of his old red ones, he begins to silently cry. Why, we don't find out - much of this volume is Hidaka-san laying seeds of plots that will grow over the next several volumes. Especially in the last page, which shows - to no one's surprise, and to be fair it wasn't really meant to be a surprise - that Saki is playing with Maki, and has an evil smirk (TM) and ulterior motive.

Cartoon violence of the volume - Senko shooting a bullet into a teacher's head.

Again, much of the joy of reading this series is of seeing the improvements that Hidaka-san is making. Her art is still cluttered, but nowhere near as bad as it was in the first couple of volumes, and she's grown more relaxed about throwing in nonsensical comedy and metatext into the middle of her serious school romance. And we're still not even halfway done with the series!

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