By Izumi Tsubaki. Released in Japan as "Oyayubi kara Romance" by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Viz.
And so my favorite lost cause comes to an end, wrapping up all of its remaining dangling plot points that its editor will let wrap up. I had to laugh at Tsubaki's sidebar, where she notes she wanted to end the manga with Chiaki's bitchy twin sister again, as that's how it started, and her editor said "Don't do that, no one remembers her anymore." It's funny because it's true.
So what do we get wrapped up here? Why, Chiaki and Yosuke's feelings for each other! Which we actually wrapped up in Volume 8, so naturally we have both of them doubting themselves here. To the author's credit, however, I did like the way she handled this. They met through massage, due to Yosuke's stiff back. Now that he's resolved his past demons and confessed to Chiaki, he's relaxed. A fact that, when realized, sends both of them into panic. Chiaki as she fears now that he doesn't need massage Yosuke will abandon her, and Yosuke worrying that he now has no appeal to Chiaki and her massage-obsessed self.
So Chiaki suddenly becomes obsessed with getting sexy. This is the second funniest part of the manga, as she goes around asking for advice on how to be a hot sexy thing. Considering that she's an adorable puppy of a high school girl, most people correctly point out it would be hard to carry off, and also note that Yosuke would just be irritated with her for trying to put on a fake sexy persona anyway. My favorite part is when she turns to "Sexy Queen Natsue" for advice, who notes that she doesn't try to be sexy. When Chiaki then turns to Harumi and asks what he finds sexy, and he wriggles and blushes, Natsue quickly notes how sexy she finds his embarrassment.
In the end, of course, the couple realize that it's not just about massage for them, but their love of each other, and they reconcile. This leads to the final epilogue chapter, where the third-years (Natsue, Harumi and Ayame) graduate, and we get a big party to wrap it up. It's very odd seeing a series end with the graduation of beta characters but not the leads, but this is the danger of making your lead couple first-years. (I had forgotten to note the funniest part of this volume, by the way, which was Yuna's attempts to bake a cake. As a best-friend character she's been really generic through the series, but her baking attempts are so bad they put even C-Ko to shame. This, combined with Yosuke's managing to get a great cake out of her by bullying her through it, drill-sergeant style, were hysterical).
And then there's Natsue and Harumi, my favorites. As is usual by now, they don't get big moments, but little fun scenes. In addition to the aforementioned sexy definition scene, we see Natsue getting extensions (so her hair now looks as it did in the flashback) in order to attempt to look younger; Ayame deviously tricking Harumi into giving Natsue his second button on his coat (I love Ayame more and more with each book), and finally Natsue and Chiaki talking about the future, and future worries. This ends with Natsue turning and giving Chiaki (and more importantly the reader) a big smile. The buildup to this wasn't perfect, but that's irrelevant, as it's meant to be pure service as a reward to the reader for 9 volumes of Natsue's deadpan face. It's fantastic. (And we get Harumi's smile at the end as well, in a mirror to the end of their flashback from earlier volumes).
There's lots of add-ons in this volumes, showing once again how messy and disjointed it actually is. A list of what the editor rejected in terms of plotlines, pages talking about what happens in the future to many of the minor characters, and a bunch of 4-komas to wrap things up. Really, the final volume of The Magic Touch is almost a microcosm of the series. It has a lot of massage, some cute but ultimately sexless romance, a lot of plot points that seem to go somewhere and never do, and a cast where you have to keep reminding yourself who is who. Despite this, I still am recommending it, as just because a series isn't great doesn't mean it does not have redeeming qualities. For one, it's nice seeing the development of a series (and its editorial fiats) so blatantly on the page. And for another Natsue is totally awesome. Even the author agrees - she names Natsue as her final character here.
We'll miss you, Magic Touch. But look forward to Oresama Teacher in 2011.