Ask me what writing reviews is like, and my summary is that it's pretty rad. When I read something spectacular, I get to gush about it like a schoolchild getting a Switch for Christmas, and if it's a god-awful abomination, I get to roll out the torture rack and mull over which instruments will get the loudest screams. But in between the great and the horrible are the so-so: works which are neither good nor bad, so ruminating over things to opine on is like commenting on the job performance of your local deli clerk. They did their job without any screw-ups, so what is there to say? This is largely my stance on volume 4 of My Friend's Little Sister Has It In For Me!
The plot picks up where volume 3 left it hanging. Things are hairy for the Fifth Floor Alliance. Their illustrator, Sumire Kageishi, is under serious pressure by her family to give up her career as an illustrator, and her only hope for a happy future is blackmailing her grandfather with his collection of child pornography. Akiteru, meanwhile, is locked in a shrine with Iroha, who wants to go pick up a baseball bat and hit a home run. It's good setup for trouble on two ends, but the trouble on Akiteru's end quickly deflates. Despite Iroha telling him to his face that she wants to catch his pitches, it's almost magical how they talk themselves out of sex without him thinking, “Huh. That chick wanted to bone me.”
Akiteru's been the typical dense protagonist thus far, but he proves he's not dense as a magnetar when he entertains the possibility that Iroha has feelings for him. He's usually uptight about his rationality, and we see a more contemplative side to him as he wrestles with that reality, but it's not that enthralling of a debate. The third act of the first volume handled emotion artfully, but here, Akiteru's just scrounging together the different ways of saying, “Does Iroha like me? And why does that make my chest ache?”
Another element this book struggles with is the comedy. For whatever reason, it's settled into this routine where the volumes alternate between being funny and not funny, and we've tripped back into the not funny rut. It's not completely without humor. An old man texting using internet jargon was fairly funny. But the remainder of the prose either sharpens no comedic edge or wedges in some brief conversation that's funny only in a “Haha, that's mildly amusing, I guess” sort of way.
A character who debuted in the previous volume has a more prominent role in this one, that being Akiteru's fake girlfriend's editor, and her three traits are that she's delusionally youthful, makes bird noises and puns because I don't know, and is stupidly good at her job, even editing a full novel's manuscript in a matter of hours, which is a subject that's bothered me since the first volume. The whole shtick with My Friend's Little Sister Has It In For Me!'s characters is that they have unreal talent. Iroha has the vocal talent to be able to perform literally any voice you can dream up. With suspension of disbelief, you can forgive the impossibility of their talents, but sometimes, this series asks me to hang my disbelief up pretty high, and they only make ladders so tall. I can believe in an editor who delivers the perfect edits, corrections so good that they transform a work into an instant recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, but how in the world is she so swift? She's not employed with Shonen Jump, she's editing a prose novel. That's a book with words, which take time to read, sometimes too much time because the content's so dull that you procrastinate with reading by watching paint dry. That's not even counting the time it would take to mark down thoughts and corrections and make sure it's all legible. It's like My Friend's Little Sister Has It In For Me! pondered what would make for an amazing editor and read Bleach for inspiration.
While I'm getting long-term grievances off my chest, another topic that's been gnawing at me is the end goal for the Fifth Floor Alliance. Akiteru founded it so that the talents of his buddies wouldn't go to waste, and the ultimate goal is getting them hired at a big-name game publisher. Noble goal, but they're not living in 1995. Any aspiring artist, with a decent laptop, an internet connection, and a great deal of patience and devotion can make a product and put it out for the world to see. Whether you achieve financial independence from such an endeavor is another matter, but never does Akiteru bring that up as a concern. All he says is, “I don't want their talent going to waste.” There are advantages and disadvantages to employment at an established game studio over going indie, and vice versa, but Akiteru hasn't put forth any more information to sway us on why employment at the game studio is better than having total creative freedom in their apartment complex.
If this were the quality of a debuting series, I would've called it boring, but since this is the fourth volume in a series I'm reasonably fond of, I call it disappointing. What virtue it possesses is by dumb luck than by skilled hand, because it doesn't put forth more effort than the bare minimum. The comedy's weak when nonexistent, the emotional turmoil is stirring as frozen milk, and the illustrator's family drama wraps up abnormally quickly before everybody spends a week at the beach playing volleyball. Given how in the past I used to jump for joy and getting to read another chapter or two from My Friend's Little Sister Has It In For Me!, I was perturbed at how the same prospect now gave me the same pleasure as a routine dental cleaning. That's nothing you dedicate a journal entry to, and similarly, this volume was so bland, uninspired, dull, boring, and monotonous that even thinking about writing this review turned me narcoleptic.