Saturday, November 5, 2016

How To Raise A Boring Girlfriend Vol. #03 Manga Review

Through hardship comes strength. Pray for good luck.

Creative Staff:
Original Story: Fumiaki Maruto
Art: Takeshi Moriki
Character Design: Kurehito Misaki
Translation: Kumar Sivasubramanian
Translation Consultant: Chitoku Teshima
Lettering: Phil Christie

What They Say:
Though the creative differences between the main writers have led to major head-butting, the plot of Aki's game is completed without further incident after he spends a sweet night with Utaha.

Character design is up next on the to-do list, but before that can get underway, a familiar face from Aki's past shows up waiting for him at the school gate! Little Izumi isn't so little anymore, and her debut sends shockwaves through the other heroines!! A "doujinshi" showdown awaits at Summer Comiket!! Is Aki's dating sim on the backburner?!

The Review:
Content: (Please note that the content portion of the review may contain spoilers)
After leaving Katou hanging at the end SaeKano's last volume, Tomoya has made it a mission to find Kasumigaoka Utaha. Not feeling completely satisfied with her plot for his dating sim, Tomoya decides that he can not let the story progress any further until his concerns are addressed. The main concern, of course, is having Megumi's character (Meguri) essentially wiped clean from the story in the ending. After searching around for hours, Tomoya eventually finds Utaha and the two retreat to her hotel room, where he must spend the night after missing the last train. It is at this point where we begin to see several parallels with Utaha's characters and our story itself. While it is evident that the main heroine for the game is a play on Katou (I mean, that's the entire plot of the game. We all know that), we begin to notice that Ruri's character is actually Utaha's take on herself. Ruri, being the little sister of the game's protagonist, is a walking symbol of the past. Utaha having written Ruri in as the only remaining heroine at the end of the game is metaphorical for still wanting to end up with Tomoya, even after everything that's happened between them. And while Tomoya doesn't necessarily understand that, it still plays a huge role in determining Kasumigaoka's participation in the project.

Eventually, Tomoya is able to convince Utaha to change the ending of the game after several flashback panels detail their previous relationship, which has since started to vanish. As the manga heads back toward its usual happenings, a new heroine appears -- Izumi Hashima. Izumi, another childhood friend of Tomoya's, comes on strong right off the bat, incessantly calling him senpai and inadvertently throwing herself at him. After making a terrible impression on the other three girls competing for the protagonist's love, Izumi hands Tomoya a circle-ticket to Summer Comiket and asks that he help her sell her new doujin, Fancy Wave Vol. 8. Accompanied by Katou, Tomoya ventures out to Comiket and does just that as he harnesses his knowledge of the doujin market and winds up selling out of Izumi's book almost immediately. Here's where the manga trails off into what is perhaps the best few chapters of the series thus far.

Eriri, while wandering around Comiket, stumbles across Izumi's booth. After being offered a free copy of Fancy Wave, Eriri kicks into tsun-mode, hands the book back, and storms off. Tomoya, of course, chases after his childhood friend which ultimately ends up in an argument that further damages the already depreciating relationship of these two characters. Eriri has a crush on Tomoya -- we all know that. The only one that doesn't seem to understand this is Tomoya himself. After talking with Utaha and Katou about wanting to repair his relationship with Eriri, the three come up with a genius plan that is sure to get the tsundere to shift back into dere-mode.

In the middle of the night, in a scene right out of a visual novel (Literally), Tomoya shows up at Eriri's balcony dressed as Servis, one of the protagonists of Little Love Rhapsody (Which, in itself, is a symbol of Tomoya and Eriri's relationship). After reciting a line or two from the game, Tomoya grabs his childhood friend's hand and the two run back to their old elementary school -- where all of their relationship problems started in the first place. Even though it initially seems like Tomoya is planning on apologizing for everything that's happened recently, he does the exact opposite. He demands that Eriri apologize to him. As it turns out, when the two of them were younger, Eriri gave into bullying and stopped talking to Tomoya about anime at school -- fearing that her reputation would be tarnished. This, of course, left our protagonist to fend for himself and figure out a way to repel verbal attacks about how much of a loser he was. As the argument heats up and neither character refuses to apologize, we're brought to one of the most intimate and emotional strings of panels I've ever seen in a manga series.

As the climax of the argument between Eriri and Tomoya reaches its peak, the pages of the book come to life. The highlighting and black levels amplify tenfold, culminating in something that feels more like an argument between the pages themselves. Neither character wants to back down, and that's made incredibly evident through sporadic, yet meticulous artwork showcasing a plethora of every conceivable negative emotion packed into said art itself. You can literally feel the relationship between these two as they furiously pour their hearts out to one another. Honestly, I can't remember the last time I felt so involved in a fictional argument. As the emotions fade away and the argument comes to close, we're left with a lingering feeling of both disappointment and hope as the two push aside their current problems and look toward the future -- complacent with how they feel about each other for the time being.

In Summary:
Not only is this the best volume of How To Raise A Boring Girlfriend to date, it is one of the best installments of manga I have ever read. This particular volume is so centered around relationships and how they affect others that it's surprisingly breathtaking -- especially in the latter half. The surprising part of this series thus far is just how much of an impression each of the characters leaves. They all have their own motives and dreams, and this is one of the very few series out there where you want to root for all of them. As we see these relationships fleshed out and made more complicated and intimate, we develop our own struggles as we try and empathize with each one. This ultimately creates an experience that is not so commonplace in anime and manga anymore -- we feel included. How To Raise A Boring Girlfriend is truly a dark horse and a force to be reckoned with. 

Content Grade: A+
Art Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: A+

Age Rating: 14+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: July 26, 2016
MSRP: $12.99

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