In a fit of rampant hedonistic consumerism, I bought Yuki-chan volume three a few weekends ago. Thinking back, perhaps the great meal and pleasant company I had with me somehow overloaded my poor tiny brain and caused me to plonk down the dosh for the book, only to remember my own okay-but-not-over-the-moon judgement of the first two volumes. Still, the events in the second volume of the series set up some interesting potential upsets that have the chance to flourish in this new volume.
For those of you who are new to the series, or who have forgotten, “Disappearance” takes the normal cast of Haruhi and dumps them into the alternate reality that was presented for the bulk of the movie The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. The first two volumes have now set up the cast in this new world and showcased the titular Yuki as she tries to muster up the courage to give crush Kyon a Valentines Day present. With that challenge out of the way, will she be able to move past her crippling shyness to make her feelings clearly known?
In the interest of brevity and clarity, I’m going to use perhaps the least creative means available to me of conveying my thoughts on this volume of Yuki-chan. Bullet points! Yaaaay!
First, the pros of this volume:
- It contains a lot of Nagato Yuki. (This may not be a pro for everyone, admittedly, but it is for me.)
- There is a single cute scene between Yuki and Kyon which sadly goes nowhere in the grand scheme of things.
- When the story is playing it straight, the moderate to high level of art from the first two volumes has been maintained. It doesn’t take many risks or stand out in any particular way, but it is admittedly pleasant to look at.
- It has an interesting final-page cliffhanger that sets up for what may be an interesting fourth volume.
Sadly, that is it for the pros! Now for the cons:
- Nothing of note or import happens for the entire rest of the book outside of this cliffhanger.
- All of the momentum and tension that was built up in the second volume of the series has been crudely jettisoned in such a crude manner as to beggar belief.
- As a result of this, there is no longer any rivalry or conflict between the different members of the cast and instead everyone has settled into a very dull status quo. Rather than taking any kind of independent action or making any interesting moves, most of the cast is reduced to being either cheerleaders or mere bystanders.
- Yuki, despite ostensibly being the main character, is now so passive that it beggars belief. This is not helped by the earlier mentioned loss of any and all tension in character inter-relationships.
- Any interesting setup that is attempted in this volume is routinely squandered for zero payoff. Most notable among these is how in the first chapter of this book manages to squander a lot of the actual engaging relationship building that occurred in the entire proceeding volume.
- The comedy elements of the series are now so well-worn that you barely notice them when they are trotted out. The same goes for the humorous use of art with its constant switches in style and slips into caricature - without some punchy storyline or humour to propel it, it just washes over you.
In case I have not yet made it clear from my pile of complaints above, this new volume of Yuki-chan feels like a massive pile of wasted potential; of good ideas left to die unrealised. After making a notable effort to be an interesting romance series in its own right in the second volume, Yuki-chan undoes all of its hard work in this new installment, relegating it to being a mere fanservice knick-knack. Sadly, the series has taken an easy way out and simply strung together a sequence of mushy scenes without any impact that weakly attempt to tug at the heartstrings.
All of this is especially irritating as the first two volumes, in-between some missteps, managed to set up an interesting alternative reality for these characters to exist in, as well as some interesting challenges for each character to overcome. Now, all of that is explicitly jettisoned or simply forgotten, leaving you with a bland, forgettable lump of manga. Frankly, even being the slightly worrying fan of Yuki that I am, I can't think of many redeeming features to this volume outside of the nice artwork. It’s a damn shame, and it could have been so much more.