By Karuho Shiina. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Margaret ("Betsuma"). Released in North America by Viz.
I'm starting to notice a problem with the fact that a great deal of the shoujo manga we see here comes from Hakusensha titles. I've grown used to their fast, somewhat chaotic and cluttered style. So when I get to a title from, say, Shueisha, the pace always seems too slow and pedantic for me. That's the complaint I have with this volume of Kimi ni Todoke - it's 180 pages, but with only 4 chapters, and with the art and plot as spread out and relaxed as it is, it feels like very little happened here.
Well, that wraps up my complaints. Now back to gushing. Wow, this continues to be one of the best shoujo manga titles coming out here in North America. Sawako mostly takes a backseat for 3/4 of it, as we wrap up the arc featuring Chizuru and her crush on Ryu's big brother. The cliffhanger we left Vol. 5 with is resolved almost immediately, as Big Brother returns home for the holidays with his fiancee in tow. So most of what we get are Chizuru trying to come to terms with her crushed dreams, and the fight she subsequently has with Ryu.
A lot of the fun in this volume comes from characters not reacting the way that we think they should. Even Ayane notes this out loud, saying that a Chizuru trying to act 'normally' while repressing everything is something that she can't deal with. Meanwhile, Ryu is normally the most perceptive of the group, but here is forced to actually step out of his passive role, and finds it very awkward going. Chizuru can easily scream and yell, but when he's angry or frustrated, he has no such vent. As a result, we completely understand why Chizuru is so confused with his behavior - why on earth is her steady, reliable friend giving her mixed signals NOW?
We don't actually end with any sort of confession - far too early in the series for that, and the manga's at 12 volumes and still running in Japan. But things do wrap up well, with Chizuru and Ryu's brother working things out as well as they ever will, and then having her and Ryu make up. Their talk at the dockside is the sweetest, most touching part of the volume, and makes you yearn for them to get closer. But at least they're friends again.
The last chapter is also excellent, reminding us that while Sawako has come very far since the start of the manga, she's not remotely a normal, sociable girl yet. What's more, she's not yet at the point where Christmas is a time for friends and lovers rather than family - though we can see her struggling with it. Luckily, Kazehaya continues to be the best boyfriend ever, and is totally understanding of what she needs to do. He also gets her the perfect Christmas present. But I've gone on about Kazehaya's perfection before.
Basically, even though the pace seems sluggish to me as a reader of much more pacey shoujo manga, it's not that bad in its own context. And if the pacing is all I can complain about, then you're in for a treat. Kimi ni Todoke continues to be one of the best manga being published today. Seek it out.