By Karuho Shiina. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Margaret ("Betsuma"). Released in North America by Viz.
Once again, there are so many fantastic individual moments here in this volume that it makes me forget that things are moving at a crawl. In any case, we get 4 new chapters here, three of which are devoted to New Year's Eve. Since the last volume had Sawako spend Christmas with her family, even though it's a couples day in Japan, it's fitting somehow that this New Years' she gets to go around with Kazehaya. Even if she has to be tricked into it. And even better, her birthday is New Year's Eve.
Yoshida and Yano give Sawako a makeover (which is adorable, and I love how it's their birthday present to her) and then promptly ditch her right as Kazehaya arrives, turning their group outing into a duet. Of course, they then continue to watch from the sidelines, which leads to comedy (poor Yano really suffers in this volume, from needing to keep Joe occupied the whole time to running into Pin at the end) and some nice sweet moments (Ryu has been grumpy the entire time, thinking that Sawako and Kazehaya don't need as much 'help' as the girls are giving, but finally gets Yoshida away for a quiet New Year together).
The majority of the three chapters, though, is the usual back and forth between Sawako and Kazehaya. They're both incredibly poor at communicating, and both find each other very hard to read, which leads to a huge amount of awkwardness. Kazehaya is clearly blown away by Sawako's makeover, and isn't quite sure where to look. Luckily as the night wears on and he finds it's her birthday, he relaxes, and even goes so far as to swap fortunes with her (he gets good luck, she gets bad, though both fortunes are rather perspicacious when it comes to their love lives). Still, when the night is over they simply part. Sawako now realizes that having Kazehaya as a friend isn't enough anymore. She wants him to be a boyfriend.
Of course, knowing and doing are two different things. The last chapter is far less sweet than the previous three, and features the 'villain' of the series, Kurumi, making her return after a volume and a half's absence. It's Valentine's Day, which means chocolates, both obligation and love types. Kurumi, of course, has made chocolate for everyone, but finds it incredibly hard to give Kazehaya his. To make matters worse, Kurumi (who's better than she was, but is still enjoying making life miserable for Sawako) notes Kazehaya always refuses chocolate that isn't friendship chocolate. Except for Kurumi's. Mostly as he feels guilty for turning her down. And so, in the end, Sawako does nothing. We're left on a cliffhanger.
I really feel for Yano here, as watching Kazehaya and Sawako clearly be head over heels with each other and yet barely move forward an inch can be mind-numbingly frustrating. Still, there's lots of little moments here that continue to make this one of the best shoujo manga out there, and I'm hoping that Volume 8 might resolve things a little better (a hug? can I at least get that?). Plus we get a hint that we'll meet a new male character soon, who I suspect will be to Kazehaya what Kurumi is to Sawako. Good times!