Ah, the dramatic love triangle. What would we do without you for tired, retread, yet eternally fascinating drama. I love you, but you love him and he loves me. It’s been done so many times it’s almost not funny. But, add in a drenching cold rain, a deathly fever and a psychotic cross-dressing brother and you have…well, pretty much the same thing as always.
Hanayashiki no Junin-tachi, Volume 2 starts dead on in the middle of a melodramatic love triangle, composed of Renge, who likes Aki who likes Ayame who likes Renge. At the end of Volume 1 Aki confesses his feelings for Ayame, which seemed to set her off on a course of hysteria and increased mental instability. Worse, because Aki’s figured out that Ayame likes Renge, she feels that he can wield that over her. Renge admits that she likes Aki, which only makes Ayame feel even more out in left field. But it all comes to a head when Renge overhears rumors to the effect that Ayame likes Aki – she runs off to confront Ayame, only to be told the absolute truth…that Ayame is actually in love with Renge. Renge runs off, shocked.
We get a bacgkrounder on Ayame’s family – it will come as no surprise to most of us that her mother was cold and distant, her father was unpredictable and violent and we already know that her brother is a slightly psychotic cross-dresser. I hope this part of the story wasn’t meant to be super shocking and revealing, because it’s been done similarly about a million times.
We then fast backward to middle school days when Ayame and Renge first met and became friends. It’s interesting to note that before Renge, Ayame was, despite her appalling parents, a popular and fun person. The boys liked her, the girls liked her, she wasn’t phobic about schoolwork. Another lesson here – not only are lesbians mentally unstable, even so much as falling in love with another girl is enough to completely destroy your emotional stability and functionality! Oh no! But back to the after-school special…after Ayame learns that her mother doesn’t give a shit about her children, she cuts all her hair off, which makes her stand out in school, which cascades into a cycle of being ostracized and rejected. She reacts violently, but when that is brought to a halt by her accidentally hurting Renge, she starts to take it out on herself. As so many will attest, cutting brings relief, because she can feel the pain and know that she’s still alive. (I will suggest that, if you are tempted to cut yourself because you desire to know that you are alive, that is proof that you are alive. Next time you’re tempted to cut, think about that. Please.)
In a climactic moment, Ayame appears to be throwing herself off the roof, although to her own mind, she is really just trying to reach up to be in contact with a bird. As she climbs the fence on the roof, Renge pulls her back to earth and to sanity. Ayame and Renge dance on the roof, enjoying the movement for its own sake and the company of the other.
Back in the now, in the Hanayashiki, Ayame’s brother Kakitsubata asks Aki to leave the dorm, so his sister can be happy again.
Aki is looking through school photos, finding picture after picture of Renge and Ayame together, until he notices that once he arrived at the dorm, Ayame’s smile disappeared in all the photos. He decides that in order to let Ayame and Renge be happy again, he does have to leave.
Just as with the first volume, I’m torn between wanting to find out what happens and not caring all that much. I’m inclined to think that, as the unspoken lessons about liking other girls are so negative and the set up is so stereotypical, that the next volume will reveal the utterly unshocking, totally predictable revelation that Ayame’s affections are now focused on Aki. This will never really be a Yuri manga, despite Ayame liking Renge, because it’s clearly a flawed affection, based on pain and immaturity that has to change to a “real” love for her to be healed. I’d love to be wrong about that, but I’m not putting any money down on it!
Art – 6
Story – 7
Characters – 7
Yuri – 2
Service – 2
Overall – 7
Once again, my sincere thanks go out today to Komatsu-san for sending me this book and sponsoring today’s review! And also to thank him for his patience, because he sent it a really long time ago and I just got around to it. (And worse…I still have one more of the bunch to review….)