By Banri Hidaka. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Tokyopop.
Another bittersweet post, as I rave about another Banri Hidaka series that will likely never be finished in North America. Tokyopop is dead, and so, like I Hate You More Than Anyone!, we're locked out again from knowing the outcome of a wonderfully fun fluffy shoujo series. Ironically, Kazuha makes another cameo appearance in this volume, and I can imagine her consoling Ageha, saying that she knows the pain of having an American company collapse and leave readers hanging.
Luckily, I have copies of the last two volumes in Japanese. I'd gotten them long ago in order to spoil myself about the ending, as, well, that's the sort of reader I am. Still can't read Japanese, but I can make educated guesses about things based on the art. So, at the end of the review, I'll give a quick summary of what comes after.
This particular volume resolves the long-standing tension between Mitsuya and Tsuyu. As we guessed from Vol. 11's lame cliffhanger, Mitsuya is home sick, having caught a bad cold. This allows him to sleep and dream even more flashbacks about his past. Luckily these are the last ones, as this series has been particularly flashback-drenched, a habit of Banri Hidaka's works. We see a younger, less evil Mitsuya falling for Tsuyu right off the bat, and the devastation that hits him when she breaks up with him and leaves. This in turn leads him to harden his heart, and to a certain extent to his current personality. This is unfortunate, as when Tsuyu returns, Mitsuya reacts like "a little boy", as Ageha noted, making her feel extreme guilt and torturing her with it in order to keep her mind on him.
Fortunately, his fevered flashbacks are interrupted by the actual Tsuyu, who shows up after a call from Yukari, who notes that they need to sort things out by themselves but he'll give them "a little push". What follows is a short bit of awkward, followed by Mitsuya finally snapping. Yukari is quite clever here - Mitsuya with a high fever is far more open and vulnerable then he would ever let himself be when he's well, and this allows him to be blunt and direct to Tsuyu. It's my favorite scene in the volume, as he finally just says what he thinks about the arranged marriage meeting: "Why would you do that to me? Do you want to see me run around in circles again? Don't leave me... I've always loved you."
Tsuyu, of course, doesn't really want to do this, but she's so shy and passive she's lost the ability to tell people no (possibly as the one time she did so was the worst moment of her life). Luckily, Mitsuya's reassurances, and a few hot kisses (seriously hot... the kissing between these two in this scene is really sexy!), she returns his love, and he now feels confident enough to come up with a plan to sabotage the arranged marriage.
That's right, the second half of the volume is a 'caper film'. Yes, you could argue that she COULD simply announce to her father and aunt that she's actually in love with Mitsuya, given they seemed to arrange this for her own benefit rather than any malice, but where's the fun in that? The fun is in seeing Mitsuya be EVIL! So once they've recovered from their colds (you kiss like that, you're bound to catch a cold, Tsuyu-chan...) and break the news to Ageha and Yukari. Ageha's reactions are hilarious - she's still the funniest part of the series, and there's lots of cute art here showing her hyperactive joy at the news. (Well, OK, the funniest part was Kana's text message reacting to the news. Oh Kana, never change...)
And so Mitsuya announces his plans to sabotage the meeting, and enlists Ageha an Yukari to help... by manipulation and guilt tripping. Yes, in case you worried he's straighten up and be nice, fear not. Admittedly, it helps that the guy that Tsuyu is meeting seems to be pure scum, so we're allowed to cheer as they ruin everything. There's disguises, there's secret documents, there's Yukari dressed as a woman, anjd there's Mitsuya and Tsuyu together and happy at the end... and her father and aunt are OK with it. Yay!
...and that's the end of the series here in North America, 2 volumes short. Volume 13 consists mainly of Ageha, after a Mitsuya-centric 12. Mitsuru and Tsuyu are getting married, and Ageha wants to be a part of all the prep, but her grades were pretty bad last midterm, something noted by her teacher. Given her teacher is Saki Sugimoto from I Hate You More Than Anyone, and he's still pure evil (probably best that he and Mitsuya don't meet...), this is not going to fly, and she's banned from the shop while her grades improve. This, of course, also leads to another fight with Yukari. So Ageha frets, and panics, and has discussions with Mamoru and Nagare, and her head falls off and floats away at one point. No, really. Hidaka-san loves her 'breaks from reality'. And finally she and Yukari make up.
So with Vol. 14 we get the wedding... which is traditional Japanese. Aheh. So much for V.B. Rose. There's lots of prep anyway, though, and it has to be said that Mitsuya and Tsuyu look like they SHOULD have a Japanese wedding - Tsuyu is the very definition of a Japanese doll, and looks fantastic in her wedding kimono. Also, at some point, Yukari dresses up as a woman AGAIN - by now I think it's become clear that Hidaka-san knows what her readers like. Shizuya is at the wedding as well, by the way, and though he's jealous of his big brother being "taken" from him, he eventually accepts Tsuyu. Then Yukari and Ageha spring a surprise on the couple as they're about to leave for their honeymoon - a mock Western wedding, complete with dress by Yukari, accessories by Kana, and bag by Ageha. (I was amused at the dress, which is, for a wedding dress, almost a miniskirt - it doesn't even hit the floor!)
Then we get the final chapter, which takes place 4 years later. The majority of it is shot from 'camera-eye-view' - Ageha is recording a movie, and everyone gets to do a 'where are they now' 2 or 3 page bit. Mitsuya and Tsuyu are happily married with two kids, 4 and 2. Mamoru is in college, and still torturing Shizuya - presumably they're officially a couple by now. Nagare is still trying to get over Ageha, and in his final year of high school. Shizuya is angry,and frustrated, and shouting at the world - no changes there. Rei is fine, and looking more like his sister than ever before. Speaking of whom, we also see Kazuha and Maki, with their daughter. Sadly, it would seem Maki is still being teased and tortured by his half-brother Saki - Kazuha advises those who are confused to go find copies of I Hate You More Than Anyone 1-13. Ageha's sister and her husband are also fine. Ririko is preparing Sakura, Yukari's brother, for grade school. Sekiguchi is, um, still trying to seduce every woman he runs across. We see Kana doing some work on accessories, and she seems as happy as she's ever going to get. And finally, we see Yukari and Ageha walking down the aisle, with Ageha in a V.B. Rose creation. (This one has a 15-foot-long train *and* a miniskirt look. But I like the hat.)
And that's it! Happy endings for all! Well, did you expect anything else? I really wish we had seen this finished here, and worry that future Banri Hidaka projects may not be licensed due to the two incomplete series (it doesn't help that her current project is a next-gen sequel to I Hate You More Than Anyone...). But I'm very happy with what we did get, and thank Tokyopop for its attention to this marvelously cute shoujo series.