Here we are at Volume 8 of Sasamekikoto (ささめきこと). And we are just about as far from where we started as we can be. Instead of layering Yuri tropes and riffing on fan expectations, Volume 8 is a straightforward look at what happens when two people decide to be more honest with their feelings, with the strong subtext of “taking responsibility.”
We left Sumi on the cusp of running for Student Council President and facing a smear campaign about her sexuality. To counter this, she is set up on a date with Akemiya-kun as a beard, but when he shows up as Akemi-chan, the more important message becomes one of personal responsibility for one’s choices. This is brought front and center when Mayu punches out a classmate for her unkind words and Sumi, as Karate team captain has to bear the responsibility. Ultimately, to save the Karate team from being disbanded, Sumi pulls herself from the election…only to have Ushio step in to replace her. Ushio, determined to be as responsible a member of the Student Body as Sumi is, wins. The Karate team remains intact, and Ushio does not back down from her own new responsibilities.
Throughout this volume, Ushio’s brother is being pressured by their grandmother to take responsibility for his own future and for Ushio. After she falls and is injured, he bites the bullet and confronts Kinuta-san about his responsibility to his grandmother and Ushio. The scene where he asks Kinuta to marry him was, IMHO, one of the funniest, most realistic scenes we’ve had in the series (and the reactions of the people around them remind me strongly of a night in a restaurant in England during which everyone in the room was visibly listening in on a breakup at a table in the center of the room.)
And then there’s Sumika. Sumi has been under a tremendous amount of stress recently. She’s pulled herself from the election, but had attention focused on her personal life in a rather unnerving way. Then she had to deal with Mayu’s situation. But what pushes her to the point of breaking is Ushio saying that she’s leaving to go take care of her grandmother. Smear her, blame her, make her the brunt of what you will…the one thing Sumika cannot tolerate is the loss of Ushio.
And that brings us to the end of a very excellent volume of a manga that is not what we could have expected, but has become everything it could be.
Art – 8
Characters – 9
Story – 9
Yuri – 7
Service – 1
Overall – 9
Where will Volume 9 lead us? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out!