At long last, I have caught up with IHYMTA. Volume 9 came out in North America last month, and Volume 10 isn't due till July. Not to worry, for those who enjoy seeing me ramble on enthusiastically about titles no one else reads; there's still a lot of Excel Saga to go.
This volume (and isn't that just a fantastic cover, btw? One of the most striking I've seen in a shoujo manga) finishes off Maki's long flashback detailing his past with Saki and the tragic backstory therein. Saki, of course, rather than being an evil villain, turns out to merely have been a lonely teenager lashing out in an effort to get attention and love. Unfortunately, this leads indirectly to a suicide attempt by Maki's crush, Azumi.
I still don't *like* Saki at all, but there are some things that temper my dislike a bit here. First of all, other characters are clearly trying to show forgiveness and allow him to try to move on, namely Kazuha and Maki's mother Karen. If they can show kindness, why can't I? Secondly, we get our first big look at Maki's father Kichii, and oh my God what a louse. He's clearly a fantastic and devoted hairstylist, but his inability to keep it in his pants has ruined several lives, and his incessant whining about things in his discussions with Karen makes you wonder what the hell she sees in him. Still, we have 4 books to go after this, so I'm sure we'll see more of him, especially if the blurb for Vol. 10 is any indication.
As for Saki, the whole thing with him and Maki reminded me a bit of Fruits Basket, which was running at the same time as I Hate You in Hana to Yume. Saki sees Maki as having the loving family and friends that he never got, leading to a repressed hatred. It brought back memories of Yuki, watching Kyo the 'wretched cat' end up making friends and getting along with people far more easily than he was able to. The grass on the other side of the fence is always greener?
We then get a brief flashback (yes, again) detailing how Maki first 'met' Kazuha, when he was in his car waiting outside Mizushima's day care and saw her coming to pick up Rei. It's a very good sequence, as it shows off the difference in upbringing between Maki's multiple fractured families and Kazuha's loving, huge one. Seeing her with love and support, and having a hideously obvious crush on Mizushima, who he knows is engaged, makes Maki feel angry.
Luckily, Mizushima (who will apparently not get the character backstory I was waiting for, apparently by editorial fiat as things were running too long) is able to convince Maki that, as we know from reading this series, very strong feelings for someone does not always equal dislike. This last sequence is very sweet, finally ending the epic series of flashbacks. And so now, after 9 volumes, the two are dating.
Of course, things aren't over yet. The fashion show is almost on us, and Senko has now agreed to model. When Kazuha tries to find out more, a mortified Senko pushes her out of the 4th story window where she plunges to her death. The end. Oh wait, I forgot this is still cartoon violence central. Kazuha is back upstairs in about 10 seconds, merely bleeding excessively from the forehead. The expressions on the rest of the class (who react as you would if you saw one friend push another out of a high window) are a stitch. Hidaka-san is really starting to parody herself now:
Senko: Welcome back, miracle survivor!
Kazuha: Thanks, bashful murderer.
Asako: You guys are scaring us. Hurry on back to your own country.
After this the rest of the volume isn't as good, but that's mostly as the high point came early. Everyone's getting ready for the fashion show (and thank God Honjo has stated he'll merely style Senko's hair - I totally agree with him, cutting it would be horrible), and we get to see Maki and Honjo looking sweaty and bishie. The whole family's here as well, as Maki's parents and Saki both show up, and stepmother and prodigal son have a muted if touching reunion.
As for the fashion show itself, we'll have to wait till Volume 10. In July. Waaaaah! I need my fix!