“Hello/Just a Walk/That’s How a Childhood Friend Should Be”
While waiting more than three months between releases is obviously less than ideal, in terms purely of consumption it might not be such a bad way to read Adachi Mitsuru. His narrative approach is so deliberate that one chapter per month never leaves me satisfied – if turning Mix into a weekly is impossible, I’d almost rather have a longer wait and a larger reward.
Whether that’s the reason or not, I found these three chapters to be among the most compelling and entertaining of the series so far. It was Adachi-sensei at his most self-referential and impishly irreverent, and focused laser-like on the relationship side of the equation (which is generally paramount over the sports in Adachi’s manga). He’s still teasing out the Touch-related mysteries at a glacial pace, but we are getting tiny bits and pieces filled in at last.
In terms of irreverence, it starts off right where Chapter 21 ended, with a shit fetish – “crappy” ending indeed. There’s also an undercurrent of self-mockery for Adachi’s legendary Luddism when it comes to his settings – “How rare, a teenager without a cell phone in this day and age.” When Touma defends this with “I do not believe it right to be thankful of civilization while at the same time neglectful of culture”, it’s pretty clear who’s really taking here, and it’s not the feckless 15 year-old hero. There are also numerous puns, including a six-page spread on a brutal and tortured one built around “carelessly” pulling out an old man’s hair which ends with Touma asking “Was it really all right to spend six pages on that?”
Touma is a classic example of the Adachi magic, in that both physically and materially he’s a dead-ringer for prior generations of Adachi heroes (most obviously Tatsuya) yet impossible not to bond with. He’s the best character so far by a wide, wide margin (I find Sou especially unlikeable) but he’s a classic Adachi hero who can put a series on his back and carry it. Much of the kerfuffle in these three chapters surrounds the growing harem of suitors around Otomi, a new one (who’s actually an old one) for Touma, and what all this means for the three siblings. Touma’s stepmother seems to be trying very hard to do some matchmaking between Touma and Otomi, but at the very least what’s being confirmed here is Otomi’s feelings for Touma.
The big shakeup comes from Ooyama Haruka, the deadbeat coach’s daughter. She’s one of many girls who sends Touma gifts and love letters after his pitching performance against Mita, but hers is the only one he pays attention to – “1-A-O”. She invites him to take a walk after midterms (which he bombs worse than usual because he’s thinking about her letter) with the caveat that if he accepts he should return her greeting with “Good morning”, and if he declines with “Anutarra Samyak Sambodhi” (unexcelled complete Enlightenment). Touma is worried about the implications of all this, but naturally when she greets him he can’t remember any of the Buddhist saying and reflexively says “Good morning”. Haruka scored some points with me with that clever little ruse.
Haruka’s “walk” turns out to be an extended train trip and hike to see Katata Falls (yet another bad pun here involving tanukis and persimmons) where she had a photo taken when she was three. She remembers every detail from when she was three, it seems, while Touma remembers nothing (her telling reaction: “So it seems.”). Yes, they met when they were three – when Haruka punched Touma in the face at his mother’s funeral and made him cry. It doesn’t seem like much but in the sacred world of Adachi manga, that makes them osananajimi – a fact that Nishimura Isami (who remains the only confirmed physical link to Touch so far) pointedly makes note of when Touma and Haruka are forced to hitchhike on the Seinan bus to get home.
This is certainly quite the turn – especially given that both Souichirou and Nan-chan are sweet on Haruka themselves. The shape of the romance drama is starting to reveal itself at last, though my reading of the tea leaves still says that Touma and Otomi are the fated pair. There’s no doubt that Haruka establishes herself as a compelling presence in these chapters, though, and as Otomi notes she now officially “beats” her (and Sou) in terms of getting to Touma first. Collectively this all feels like real progress (though that makes me wish that much harder we were getting three chapters a month), and effectively distracts me from being irritated at the lack of cookies on the Touch front.