The alternate reality that mainly exists to give life to some what ifs? and present a cavalcade of in-jokes returns with another installment.
Story/Art: PUYO (Art), Nagaru Tanigawa (Story), Noizi Ito (Character design)
Translation: Paul Starr
Lettering: Abigail Blackman
What They Say:
When he joins the organization committee for the joint Kouyouen-North High festival, Kyon is reunited with Sasaki, an old friend from middle school. Their renewed friendship draws a confession out of Sasaki that could change everything! A romantic challenger has appeared!!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For those who have not been following and any stray reader who has not checked out the earlier volume reviews on the site, I’ll just repeat the general comment/warning that The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is a series that can only be fully appreciated if you are current with the Haruhi Suzumiya light novel series by Nagaru Tanigawa, perhaps known best here in North America by the name of the first novel alone, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, as that name was used for the anime adaptation (note: for those who are about to complain that I’m using two different name orders, Japanese order for Yuki and Western order for Haruhi, please look at the way the names are ordered in Yen Press’s North American releases for these works. In other words, I did not choose this, I am merely quoting the titles as they officially appear). At a minimum, knowledge of the Haruhi universe from the animated version is required, though these later volumes involve characters and events from the later, still unadapted, novels.
In terms of crossover events and in-jokes, this volume is probably the one most packed with them of the series so far, as there are callbacks and references to a slew of well-know events. It comes up in the course of this universe’s combined Kouyouen Academy-North High School Festival, which gets the characters reminiscing about what they did at last year’s school festivals (so we have nods towards Enoz, fortune telling, and filmmaking). There’s even a really bad punning play upon one of the least-liked segments of the universe (the dreaded ∞8), though it managed to get a laugh out of me. We also learn that Ryouko Asakura is a huge fan of stew, all year round.
For the alternate storyline, however, the big subject is the romantic skirmishing for Kyon’s affection, as his old middle school friend Sasaki, who is currently at Kouyouen Academy, comes back into his life. She presents the first truly formidable rival for Yuki, who has still not confessed her feelings to him (the alternate, alternate version of Yuki who did so in a previous volume doesn’t fully count, as Kyon considers “her” a different person). Sasaki and Kyon have a natural comfort level that frightens and intimidates Yuki. But while Sasaki might be harboring some feelings for Kyon, it becomes clear that Kyon does not feel the same way, partially driven by that earlier confession by the alternate-Yuki, which he fully remembers.
When it comes to high school romantic comedies, there really isn’t anything special going on here. These situations and these character types have been portrayed endlessly in numerous works. The only difference here is that we get to explore some well-known characters acting in ways their “usual” selves could never behave, especially Yuki Nagato. In a way, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan works as a commentary on the original light novel series, exploring the full range of the characters’ inner lives and emotions, even if these are alternate dimension off-shoots. Thus while a fan of the Haruhi Suzumiya stories may get quite a lot of enjoyment, or not, from this tale (my grade reflects the view of someone who likes the original series and likes this alternate universe and what it does), it’s probably not going to reach much of an audience outside those already initiated into the mysteries of that crazy and hyperactive girl and her wild antics.
Be on the lookout for the anime adaptation of this manga coming out now.
For those who are familiar with the Haruhi Suzumiya light novels, here is another installment in the “what if?” world of Disappearance. The story, however, has advanced into the events and personalities of the later Haruhi novels as Kyon’s former middle school classmate Sasaki makes an appearance, though without the threatening entourage this time (we get a cameo of one of them, but she’s certainly not the same being we know). In this universe, the fight is mainly over Kyon’s affections, as Sasaki presents a rival to shy, bookish Yuki Nagato. As a high school rom-com, this is nothing unusual or noteworthy. As a way to throw jokes deriving from Haruhi references at those who are ready to receive them, Puyo’s manga continues to provide some laughs and entertainment. Basically, for Haruhi fans only.
Content Grade: B+ (For Haruhi fans; others: ???—Hard to say)
Art Grade: B+
Package Rating: B+
Age Rating: Older Teen–LS
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: September 23rd, 2014