The difference between that 5-month wait between volumes of a series here in the West and in Japan is HUGE for one incredibly important reason. In Japan, the readers are often being fed a monthly installment of story, while here in the west, there is just a silent space of time in which we amuse ourselves with something else. By the time we return to a story 5 months later, no one can really be blamed for having forgotten where we left off. Manga for younger readers often have a “The Story So Far” insert, but that’s not true for most adult-oriented works…nor is it true for quarterly anthologies such as Tsubomi.
So, perhaps more than three months have gone by when I finally get around to the next volume and I have a very hard time remembering who these people are and why I should care. This is, at least in part, because I found a number of the Tsubomi anthology stories not overwhelmingly interesting initially. It made it harder to remember them in the torrent of similar stories I read. But having read three volumes in a matter of three months, I find that I can remember far more of the stories than I previously did. I’ll chalk at least a little of this up to my failing memory, which cares about fewer things every day, and is far more relaxed about forgetting inconsequentials than it used to be. ^_^
Which brings us to Tsubomi (つぼみ), Volume 9.
“Hoshikawa Ginza Yon-choume” continues as Otome and Minato try to find balance in their domestic situation, and what, if anything, they expect out of each other.
Which is not entirely dissimilar from the situation in Morinaga Milk’s “Himitsu no Recipe” as Watanabe now has to reconcile herself to being in cooking club because she likes cooking, as opposed to being in cooking club because she likes the cooking club president. Her expectations have to shift if she is going to find any happiness at all.
In “Green” Youko and Megu show us how their relationship developed.
I like “Hana to Hoshi.” The simple addition of a backstory between the two protagonists gives this particular girl meets girl (again) tale some depth. In addition, the opening scene of this chapter, in which Hanai is practicing different ways to say hello to try to be cool and casual, gave the story a new level of verisimilitude.
Unlike “Prism” in which the rather tired trope of girl meets girl (who she thought was boy when they were young) is handled pretty unexcitingly. IF this story continues, I’ll hope it sets that trope aside and moves into new, somewhat less overused story lines.
Yay for “Lonely Wolf Lonely Sheep”! Here’s a Story A told with some genuine effort at making all the pieces feel new and fresh. Imari-chan and Imari-san begin to date, but long after Imari-san has healed up, something is still wrong with Imari-chan’s hand. The story of what exactly is wrong and the fantastic way Imari-san handles it, reminds me again there are no truly “original” stories, but that there are still plenty of ways to tell a well-told story originally.
“Tandem Lover” seems to have lost a lot of the obnoxious service that plagued its opening chapters. In this chapter two Tandem teams go full on to beat the crap out of each other. The lower pilot on each team is a little surprised to find that the upper pilots are motivated by a lovers’ quarrel.
We learn some of Kuroi-sensei’s backstory in “Renai Manga,” and really, it’s kind of predictable. Crisis and a love triangle means that this will probably hang on for a few more chapters, until a tearful happy “Story A” end.
“Endless Room” has officially become creepy. I don’t mind stories about the people who stay in the suite in a hotel, but the same androgynous waitress kind of watching over/seducing them is rather uncomfortable-making.
“In “Girls Ride” motorcycling and love triangles are the order of the day.
As always, there are stories that I have skipped, but I notice that I am following more and more of the stories in this collection. So, we’ll take this anthology off “critical” bypass “serious” and move it right to “stable.”
Overall – 8
If only for “Hana to Hoshi” and “Lonely Wolf Lonely Sheep,” I find myself actually looking forward to Volume 10, which comes out next month.