By Kaneyoshi Izumi. Released in Japan as "Men's Kou" by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Bessatsu Comic ("Betsucomi"). Released in North America by Viz.
(This review contains a major spoiler for this volume.)
Well, that was a bummer. Don't get me wrong, a beautifully told, well-written bummer. I enjoyed every minute of it. But dang. Thank goodness the volume ends with a wacky romantic farce, even though it pales in comparison to what came before.
Maki's on the cover of this one, and indeed the bulk of the volume is about him, as we discover the backstory that we mysteriously never got in Volume 1. Clearly the artist had been holding back as it was going to take most of a volume to tell - I wonder if this was the ending she had in mind for a short series? (Most shoujo writers are told to plan 'short, medium, and long' endings for any series they create, so that if a series isn't popular it can easily wrap up, and if it is, there's resolution on the horizon.)
Things start off with some prospective new guys touring the school. One of them brought his amazingly cute sister, who sets about trying to score free food and otherwise use her looks to hit on guys. She's drawn immediately to Maki, the stereotypical nice guy, and indeed he seems to be going after her as well, but Rui notes that it's a facade. Then, of course, the girl makes the mistake of bringing up Maki's ex-girlfriend. Cue Maki's rage.
We then get the story of how Maki and Erika, the ex in question, met in middle school. It's my favorite part of the volume, mostly as we see how fantastic they would be as a couple. Maki is determined to be nice to Erika no matter what, but he's not perfect - we see his frustration with her actions, and we also see that a lot of his 'dogged nice guy' persona is a mask that's easily slipped on. And Erika is fantastic, being a grumpy loner who will not be dealing with any fools today, thank you. Maki is relentless in getting her to open up, and when she does, we smile.
And then she dies. And I was sort of hoping that it was a fake death, one of those 'my parents told you I was dead so they could break us up' things, but no, this is far too gut-wrenching for that. This is the best part of the book, with Maki reading, finally, the book that Erika had given him before she was killed and showing her message to him. The narrative notes that this isn't a sad story, as it's a story of love that is returned, but frankly it's hard to convince yourself of that. And then the artist draws her as a spirit (and later as an angel in the end comic) to show us, yes, really dead. Sigh.
So clearly, if Maki gets together with anyone, it's not going to be until Volume 8 or so. And it probably won't be with Miyaji, the girl we meet in the last chapter who seems to combine bad luck and desperation in equal measure. She's dealing with the aftermath of a situation where she and her friend were both in love with the same guy, but the friend admitted her feelings first, and won. And while Miyaji is happy for them, it makes things very awkward. So... better find a fake boyfriend! After the serious previous chapters, this comes off as even more goofy than it should, and I groaned at the predictable ending, but Miyaji seems like a lot of fun, and it'll be nice seeing another female in this mostly male cast.
I'd noted in Volume 1's review how wildly variable the series was, and Volume 2 is much, much better. The series has found its footing (as many shoujo series do once they realize they're going to BE a series), and Maki's past was definitely worth the wait. I look forward to the next volume of this.