By Miki Yoshikawa
Yamada and Shiraishi’s relationship was Yamada-kun’s core dynamic at its start, driving the most emotional of it’s story arcs. However, after Yamada joined the Student Council, Shiraishi started appearing less, and her role reduced from being its female lead to more of a supporting character. So it’s refreshing whenever the series comes back to this dynamic, has the characters spend some time together, and develop their relationship a little more. Unfortunately, the whole memory-loss business allows Yamada-kun an easy way to simply retread trotted ground this week, digging up the body-switching jokes from earlier in the series.
While it’s nostalgic to have the two switch bodies again and make call-backs to earlier in the series, the chapter doesn’t really break away from that until the end. Most of the page count is spent on jokes it’s done before: Miyamura and Itou perving on Yamada in Shiraishi body, Shirashi commenting on Yamada’s junk, etc. That said, the body switching really shows Yoshikawa’s artistic talent. You never once get confused as to who is who during the body switching because the characters behave in different ways. It’s rare to see Shiraishi with such expressive body language and facial expressions, as it is to see Yamada with such subtle and subdued mannerisms. Only a masterful artist like Yoshikawa can create such range and infuse so much personality into her characters that they stay identifiable even when they are in different bodies, and it was nice to see again after such a long time.
While most of the jokes this week are retreaded, there are some choice gags that are really novel and hilarious. A few exchanges, like Tsubaki telling Yamada to just do it with Shiraishi, or Itou commenting on Yamada being tired without having done anything all day are fun examples of how well the characters play off each other. The full page that shows Yamada sleeping through different class periods while Itou stares at him intently before finally giving up was a classic time-lapse gag. Plus, there’s also some nice bits with Hikaru that develop his character as a bit slow, from him not knowing what “doing it” means to proudly claiming he’s alone just like Tsubaki. While maybe not as clever as what the series comes up with at it’s best, it’s still good character-based humor rooted in their personalities and relationships, which is what the series has always been best at developing.
The meat of the chapter, however, rests in the strength of the Yamada and Shiraishi relationship, and how it transcends the memory loss. Shiraishi’s notebooks filled with the memories she had about Yamada, and the instructions she had written for him to follow while he’s in her body, show just how determined she was to never forget him. Her scribbling a drawing on his eraser for him to find and smile at also shows how much she cared about him, and even if she can’t remember everything they’ve been through together, she still feels close to him, and loves him as much as she always has. It’s a really cute moment between the two, and a hopeful sign that their relationship will be a bigger focus in the story going forward.
While this week’s Yamada-kun didn’t break any new ground for the series, there’s still enough appreciable character moments that made it a worthwhile read. Fans have long been frustrated at the smaller role the Yamada and Shiraishi’s romance has been as of late, so it’s especially nice to see that brought back into focus, even if only for a chapter. Episodic chapters and short arcs like this are a nice way to bring a few neglected characters back into the ongoing story, and one hopes that Yoshikawa has been doing this as of late to help build them up for bigger roles to play in the next long arc.