By Miki Yoshikawa
It turns out my interpretation of the twins’ circumstances was incorrect. The role of “Hotaru” has not been shared by both brothers, but Hikaru alone. The real Hotaru is still hospitalized. Immediately, the logistics of Hikaru’s plan must be put into question. For one, Hotaru no longer wants to go to Suzuku High. In fact, he can’t go, because he’s already missed a half year of school, so obviously the school is aware he’s still in the hospital. Which means that Hikaru had to have enrolled in school as himself, but somehow convinced the teachers to address him as Hotaru. Yet, somehow, the twins’ mom doesn’t know that one of her son’s has been going to school? They’re in high school; parents in Japan might let their kids have a certain degree of freedom, but that’s not something he could keep hidden if he had to enroll in school under his own name. The entire situation is so complicated that it’s unbelievable, which really weakens the story presented.
It’s a shame that the circumstances are so convoluted, because Hikaru’s story isn’t bad. Despite his brother having given up on attending Suzaku High, Hikaru is still determined to make friends for him. It’s an almost tragic sense of brotherly loyalty and dedication. He’s struggling to make it through each day, habitually subjected to all sorts of abuse and bulling, people being pushed away from him. His brother, the person he’s enduring this all for, no longer has faith in his success, and has told him to give up. But he can’t give up. He can’t have wasted all his effort with nothing to show for it, and leave his brother in his miserable state of loneliness.
Unlike Yamada, Hikaru can’t simply threaten his bullies to shut them up. He has something over Yamada; the mystery behind his witch power. He doesn’t have anything on his bullies. They’re in his class. If he attacks them, or threatens them, they’ll spread rumors, and they’ll expose his true self. He won’t be able to make any friends for Hotaru if people are afraid he’s a violent delinquent. So he submits to the bullies; he endures their jeers and jabs and he plays their errand boy, even when the requests escalate to the point of stealing the answer sheet for a test. All the way, Hikaru considers each request necessary; if he can just do this, then eventually, he’ll be free.
He wouldn’t be, though. As Yamada tells him, his bullying problem would only keep escalating, and he would be further and further away from his goal. Hikaru’s story emulates a lot of real-life bullying stories. Perhaps not in the underlying motivation, but in the sense of a kid being pushed around by a group of bullies and willingly enduring and going along with whatever they want or do because of a desperate, helpless desire for acceptance, approval, and friendship. It’s a vicious cycle that often ends in pain and tragedy, and Hikaru is lucky that Yamada was looking out for him, and intervened before he crossed a line that he would’ve regretted for the rest of his life.
The confusing premise of the arc aside, this chapter developed Hikaru’s story and crises in a way that felt true to life and emotionally relatable. If you were indifferent to him before, you this chapter should have provided enough reason and stakes to make you sympathize with his plight, and want to see him overcome his bullying problem and make friends. With Yamada now up to speed on the circumstances, it looks like he’s got a plan prepared to help Hikaru out of his jam, and a test of his own for him to pass. Whatever he’s got in store, it’s sure to be entertaining, and possibly cathartic, now that the Hikaru/Hotaru arc has successfully cemented it’s dramatic and emotional hooks and heads towards it’s resolution.