I really liked this volume. I love Tsuchigomori, but I hate typing his name. It's like a zillion letters long! And it's such an unusual combination of letters that my fingers trip over it, unless I'm super prepared to type it, like I was when I started this review. I typed it, and I was like, "Whoa, that was easier than I remembered." Anyway, I think it's kind of neat that Aida-sensei always writes what's in each volume in the cover flaps, but in broad terms so it's not spoilery. It's just like, "By the way, there's flashbacks!" That really doesn't tell you anything. It could be a flashback about anyone. We assumed Hanako and we were right, but it could have been anyone, really. There's just not that many characters yet, so Hanako was the most likely candidate.
Okay, so this volume starts with the mysterious girl who may or may not be a real Hanako of sorts...okay, I think she's not, actually. The way she talked to Nene, I'm really hoping we got it right, because that could potentially change the way she worded things, but it seemed like she was saying, "My school's Hanako is like this. What about yours?" And we suspect that her school's Hanako is the one that shows up at the end of this volume, but now I'm getting way ahead of things. Anyway, she tells Nene that if she wants to know more about Hanako, she should go to the 4pm Bookstacks. It did occur to us, when we were almost done editing that whole arc, that there may be some significance to the number 16 that would have prompted the use of 16:00 instead of 4pm, but we had a momentum going, so we didn't stop to look it up. Athena thinks it's just an attempt to not be obvious about saying Death O'clock, because you all know that four is the number of death in Chinese and Japanese, right? When it gets brought up at Disneyland, Gaston won't shut up about it, but in Kamakura Monogatari, which was written in the '80s, Isshiki had to explain it to his wife, so even by then the superstition had died down a lot. But it seems to be common knowledge among gaijin. Anyway, a quick glance at the Japanese Wikipedia article for 16 doesn't have anything that pops, so we're going to say it's probably fine.
Back to the story. The 4pm Bookstacks seems like a pretty cool little School Mystery. A secret room with books containing a record of every single student, with their past, present, and future. Well, I guess not future in the case of people who have died, because they're not going to be doing anything at the school anymore...except for the ghosts. So I guess there's no telling after all. But the really nice thing is that it's relatively harmless as long as you use your common sense. The book even tells you as soon as you get to your future that it's going to be red. ...Suddenly we have to wonder if the Japanese are aware of the "black and white and red all over" joke. Because the books don't turn red until they've been read! Dun dun DUN! I think the important question here is, since Nene and Kou both read about their futures, what did Kou read?
But the other important thing is, after this is when Tsuchigomori starts being an important character. Of course he conveniently started showing up earlier in the arc, as a sort of unconfident, blends-into-the-background teacher, but we all knew he was going to be one of the Seven Mysteries, because we saw the cover of the volume, and then we saw the splash page, and even without that, his hair is much too conspicuous for him to just be a random extra. On the other hand, Lemon has some pretty conspicuous hair, too! But back to the first hand, Tsuchigomori (I sure wish he had a shorter first name I could type. Sensei?) points out that even their friends might turn out to be youkai, and Lemon shows up in the group of people that Nene already knows. On top of that, even the random kid Nene crashed into in the first chapter turned out to be Kou, so it seems like there's no such thing as a truly random extra in this series...although there have been some characters that seemed rather nondescript commenting when people were making an embarrasing scene.
So Nene and Kou go to the Bookstacks to find out about Hanako, they end up reading their own books because they can't find his, and then scary copies of them show up because they broke the rules and read the red books. Then Hanako shows up to rescue them, and Tsuchigomori shows up because it's his territory and that's when he reveals his true colors and the fact that he's a tsuchigumo. He and Hanako had both been at a Seven Mysteries meeting...oh that reminds me! There was that scene where we learn that he's Kou's homeroom teacher, and he's asking Kou to stop going into the girls' bathroom. I'm really not sure what kind of a response that's going to get here, what with all the bathroom controversy we've had in the States. But that was the other obvious tip-off that Tsuchigomori was a School Mystery, because he heard about Hanako's meeting and was like, "Gasp! I was supposed to be at a meeting!" Not exactly the most subtle hint.
Anyway, they're trying to figure out who of the Seven Mysteries has betrayed them all and made a pact with a human to change all the rumors about the supernaturals and make them start hurting people. I'm starting to think...well, maybe I should save that for later. Hanako's idea is that if they strip all the School Mysteries of their power, that will somehow solve the whole problem, but the problem with that is that he says they can reinstate them all later, which is fine, except that the point is that they won't have to identify the traitor. But if they reinstate them all, the traitor would be reinstated, and just get back to his or her shenanigans. Athena says she thinks Hanako knows who the traitor is but doesn't want to single them out in front of everybody, or that if the supernaturals stop going berserk at some point before they get to everybody, it will be pretty obvious who the traitor is. At any rate, it does seem like a fairly okay strategy for at least keeping Minamoto the Elder off their backs.
But the point is, Hanako wants to take Tsuchigomori's power away. Well, Spiderman isn't much of a fighter, so he agrees as long as he gets some good dirt on Nene and Kou, but all of their dirt is stupid so he gives up on the idea. But we do learn that Hanako's deep, dark secret is that he loves donuts. Assuming "donuts" is what he really started to say. But Nene and Kou were super cute about it. And that's when Tsuchigomori learned that Hanako really can make friends, so he figures okay time to help. And that's where it starts to get really good!
He takes Nene to his yorishiro, and lets her destroy it, and just like with the last one, she sees the memories that are kept inside...and they're about Hanako! What! ...I mean, we all saw it coming, but it would have been a surprise to Nene, because she didn't have all the cinematic cues. Leading up to that point, she and Tsuchigomori had a discussion about the possibility of changing the futures that are recorded in the books, and Spiderman says it's not really possible, but it has happened once. We weren't surprised to discover that it was Hanako what did it, but I admit I was a little surprised that it changed in such a tragic way. I mean, I shouldn't have been, because, like Nene, I've known all along that Hanako is a ghost, but I guess with my manga heroes I always get it into my head that they do happy things. I don't know.
The point is, Amane Yugi...who, I realized a couple hours ago, has a name that sort of resembles Yukine, was a kid who liked astronomy and got bullied a lot. That's pretty much all we know about him, except that he lost all hope in a time when the world was full of it, and he changed his future from one of being a teacher to dying young and haunting a school for eternity. And we know he apparently killed somebody. You're going to have to read the book for more details, because obviously the book tells it a lot better. What really got me about it was Tsuchigomori's reaction to it. He even tells us that he knew everything that happened to the kid, and you always seem him acting like this aloof guy who doesn't really care about anything, but you could see how much it hurt him to not be able to help Amane. And I just love to see characters caring about other people, plus he's fun to translate, so that makes him my very favorite.
Anyway, his unique position of having something from Amane as his yorishiro gave him the ability to tell Nene about Hanako without telling Hanako he told her about him, so you'd almost think Hanako's whole plan was to strip Tsuchigomori of his powers just so Nene could find out about him, except that he supposedly doesn't know. It's possible that the mystery girl knows, so she could have orchestrated the scenario, but we won't find out about that until later.
The important thing now is that it's finally hit home to Nene that Hanako is dead, and it's kind of freaking her out. Hanako doesn't like that she's acting weird, and Kou is a really great friend because he...well he's kind of clueless, so I guess it's possible that he doesn't realize Hanako is crushing on Nene, but anyway he tries to help them out despite being obviously in love with Nene himself. This series, man! There are so many flags, it's really hard to tell who Nene will end up with! She's already been bound to Hanako, and he's the main character, so you'd think it would be him, but he is dead, so Kou has a chance, I think. But anyway, he comes up with a fake plan to get Nene to make donuts for Hanako. It was pretty great how it went down, actually, because at first he's like, "I'm a bad cook; see what I did to the kitchen?" And then he was like, "Yeah, my sister's been bugging me to make her donuts..." and I was like, "Why would she ask you to make donuts?" and then he was like, "No, you have to stir it like this!" and I was like, "Says the 'bad cook'..." And the Teru came along and revealed all! That was pretty funny, too. "Want a donut!? WHAM!" And the mokke commenting about poison was pretty great, too.
Then finally, Nene goes to share some donuts with Hanako, which was Kou's plan all along. But then! a black origami crane flies out of the donut bag, and someone starts laughing evilly and talking like he knows Hanako and like Hanako killed him! What! (By the way, we assume it's a dude, because he uses "ore," but technically that's not a determining factor.) And it happened right as Hanako was acting like he was about to confess his love to Nene!! Oh no! What's going to happen!?
So I think this murder victim is another Hanako, maybe one that goes to a different school? And s/he's the one that formed a pact with the mystery girl, who's the one altering all the rumors. That would mean that none of the Kamome Mysteries are traitors at all. And of course the other school's School Mystery would be interested in Kamome's Hanako because Hanako killed him. Maybe we'll find out in the next volume!
Tadah! Aww, what a nice series. I like it.
This week's releases once again include nothing! Tadah! That's okay, it gives us a chance to let our review posts catch up with the releases. Anyway, tune in next week for our review of My Monster Secret volume 9!
Today I'm thankful for having a good chance of finishing our work quota with time to spare today, reminders of how much we like Hanako-kun, Tsuchigomori, finishing the hard part of our work quota already, and having the heater on all morning.