By Banri Hidaka. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Tokyopop.
So much of shoujo romance manga is about how to read a person's feelings. I can't possibly confess to him, I've no idea how he feels about me! Look at the way that he jerked away when I touched him - he hates me! That sort of thing. And it's all over V.B. Rose 8 as well, even with the fact that we actually get the most plot development yet.
The Sakashita siblings are a good case in point in terms of how to play with an audience's expectations. With Yukari and Ageha, they can't read each other's feelings for each other, but we can. It's incredibly obvious to us how they feel. Mamoru and Nagare, though, are another story. I wouldn't say they're villainous - this is not the sort of shoujo to have nasty villains - but their smiles make us uneasy. It doesn't help that Hidaka-san parodies this by having them both join in a round of crazed maniacal laughter midway through.
In fact, much of this volume seems to be Hidaka riffing on her previous works. Ageha and Tsuyu go over to Kana's apartment for a heart-to-heart, and Ageha asks point black about Kana's past with Yukari. We then get an extended flashback to their fragile history together, done fairly straight. It's at the exact same point we got a flashback in I Hate You More Than Anyone - mid Volume 8. Then we cut back to Kana, staring off into space, and we realize that this was all in her head, and she never actually said anything to Ageha! Nice take-off on shoujo convention of "let me tell you about my past".
(I have to wonder if Hidaka-san had been reading One Piece while she was writing this. Not only does the extended tragic flashback that we're never sure is actually stated out loud remind me of Robin's flashback in Enies Lobby, but when asked about when she told them about her past, Kana replied, "In my heart." Kana is a person who definitely knows where Sniper Island is.)
There's another cameo from the two leads of I Hate You More Than Anyone! here, and again you don't really have to read the previous series to get it, but it's fun. There's a coincidental bit of timing here in North America, too, as this volume of V.B. rose namechecks one of Maki's friends who's a designer, and we see a little SD-picture of her. It's Fujisawa Eiko, who we are currently seeing doing a fashion show 12 years earlier, in the 9th volume of I Hate You More Than Anyone, just out last month! It's enough to make one an obsessive geek, I tell you.
However, the big story here is that Ageha and Yukari get together at last (again, her series parallel - Volume 8 was where Maki and Kazuha got together). It's sweetly done, showing Yukari's awkwardness and Ageha's uncertainty, but ends up being very sweet. Of course, there are 14 volumes in this series, not 8, so I'm sure there will be complications. From Nagare, if no one else.
The art here, by the way, is utterly gorgeous - and that is something that's different from the competent but not outstanding art in IHYMTA. Hidaka-san has really polished her skills, and of course a manga about a wedding dress shop is going to want to show off the fashion. Chapter 45 is almost purely gratuitous - between the pages of nothing but fashion AND the Maki and Kazuha cameos - but you never mind, because it just looks great.
We're now into the second half of this terrific series, and I love that we can see the way that Hidaka-san improves her craft with every volume, as well as the subtle ways she manages to not only poke fun at manga conventions but also her own past. Highly recommended.