Way back, I read a book whose entire plot revolved around the fact that the two main characters did not communicate with each other in any meaningful way. Take that same story and transport it to Astrea Hill and you’ve basically got the plot of Volume 4 of Strawberry Panic.
In this volume, Nagisa finally learns the whole story about Shizuma’s past. But instead of the truth freeing her, she decides that she can’t live up to the perfection of Shizuma’s lost partner. The truth, instead of bringing them together, drives an enormous wedge between them.
In the wake of the flashbacks and intense emotional loss, the only character other than Shizuma and Nagisa who gets a piece of the action is Miyuki – who has to face the loss of not one, but *two* objects of affection. Everyone else in the story is relegated to background noise while we watch the tension build between the main pair.
Nonetheless, this volume is plenty Yuriful. We learn that even if Shizuma didn’t *love* Kaori, her feelings at least included physical attraction. (I’m never going to stop thinking that making love outside is not, perhaps, the best choice for the terminally ill.) There’s Shizuma’s hurtful – but brutally truthful – kiss with Miyuki. And, of course, we get to enjoy the bathtub playtime of our resident EPLs, Kaname and Momomi.
But most of all, this volume is filled with fraughtness and tension as we wade through the high emotion and drama that makes up Shizuma’s backstory. We then watch Nagisa put herself, Shizuma, Tamao, Miyuki and her fan club through hell as she wallows knee-deep in some good, old-fashioned self-pity.
*This* is the volume that all the fans who consider this series to be a beautiful romance are thinking of. It has all the classic memes of a million gothic romances, but as the storm howls around Shizuma and Nagisa at the summer house, I prefer to think this series is the direct descendant of that fateful scene from Cream Lemon Escalation at Naomi’s summer house – at which Rie learns the even more shocking truth about her beloved Naomi. ^_^
Art – 7
Story – 8
Characters – 7
Yuri – 8
Service – 5
Overall – 8
Once again, my sincere thanks to that collective of Okazu superheroes, Media Blasters, for this volume and for being a fabulous bunch of people. And once again, I didn’t notice anything especially annoying with their adaptation, other than the continuing lack of “onee-sama” as an honorific. ^_^ It’s nice to be able to put a MB DVD in the player and know that neither the translation nor subtitles will subtract from the experience. Keep up the good work!