By Miki Yoshikawa
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Yamada and Shiraishi actually go on a date. In a nice turn of events, this chapter immediately follows up where the last left off: Yamada and Shiraishi going off to buy swimsuits together. Two characters in a relationship actually doing normal things couples do shouldn’t be such a novelty, but considering how most romantic comedy manga is about getting the characters together, and never show what happens after, it’s a breath of fresh air. Even more so because of the how the characters behave around each other. They decide to pick out each other’s swimsuits, Yamada worrying he doesn’t have a sense of style, Shiraishi getting giddy about making Yamada wear something “unconventional”. They behave and talk to each other like normal teenagers, not like typical manga stereotypes of teenagers. It’s fully believable that these two are a couple, and that they could have this conversation in the real world. Yoshikawa really understands how teenagers think and knows what it’s like to actually be in a relationship, and it’d be great to see more of these kind of moments in the series.
Another strength of Yoshikawa is her ability to make great humor from these believable scenarios and interactions. The biggest example in the chapter being the sequence where Yamada and Miyamura imagine how Shiraishi would look in various swimsuits. It’s a silly, fan servicey sequence, but in it Yamada acts like how an embarrassed boyfriend, yet horny teenager would: shooting down each of Miyamura’s progressively salacious suggestions with both reluctance and embarrassment. It’s easy to imagine someone in Yamada’s situation acting like he does, with all the humorous awkwardness it entails, and it comes across as a more true-to-character and relatable response. And we see the girls behaving the same way while they’re picking out swimsuits for Yamada. While Shiraishi sadly doesn’t have a fantasy sequence of Yamada wearing a thong, the idea of it still makes for a great comedic payoff. More importantly, by showing that both the girls and guys have the same kind of libido as each other, and aren’t afraid to poke fun at it, adds a sense of realism to the world and the characters. In a world where witches, whose powers activate by kissing, exist, it’s a pretty remarkable accomplishment. Once again speaking to Yoshikawa’s understanding of how both men and women in relationships think, it demonstrates her skill at making humor out of everyday, ordinary scenarios.
While there’s a lot to like about how Yamada and Shiraishi’s relationship is portrayed, this chapter also makes good use of the supporting cast. Many characters join in on the fun in this chapter, even if for quick gags. Miyamura and Ito are the most prominent, acting as comedic foils for Yamada and Shiraishi respectively, and it’s especially nice to see Ito return to being a leading secondary character. In general, many running gags established with characters in these last few chapters get played off here: Tsubaki being completely forgotten, Hikaru being peppy and oblivious, Tamaki trying to avoid the group but being influenced by their shenanigans, and Odagiri being embarrassed around Yamada because she thinks he’s coming on to her. Admittedly, it’s a bit disappointing to see Tsubaki and Hikaru be defined as characters who the rest of the cast pretty much forget. Especially considering Tsubaki has never really gotten to do anything ever since he joined the Supernatural Studies Club, and Hikaru, as a recent addition to the cast, is faring even worse. Still, the fact we’re seeing the two spend so much time together is notable, and they play off each other very well. If Yoshikawa toys with the comedic possibilities of them as a duo, that might just be what elevates them to more prominent roles, or at least finally give them a chapter to themselves.
Speaking of notable uses of the supporting cast, it turns out the chairperson introduced last week was indeed not a mere one-shot character. But while helping Yamada out of his jam seems altruistic enough, there’s an enigmatic charm to her character that casts a suspicious lens on what her true intentions really are. Especially considering that the chapter builds up that someone is stalking Shiraishi, and said stalker’s silhouette shares an uncanny resemblance to her. By helping Yamada, he now owes her a favor, and while he doesn’t think much of it, something tells me that favor is going to be an integral plot point in the upcoming school trip arc. While the chapter works well as a fun standalone with it’s goofy antics and self-contained scenario, it still develops the overall narrative by building up and paying off on running plot threads, adding a functional purpose to an otherwise episodic diversion.
This chapter is a great showcase of Yamada-kun’s strengths. From its believable teenage couple, relatable character-driven humor, adeptly used ensemble cast, and its ability to intertwine plot and character development with a strong comedic premise, there’s just a whole lot to love and laugh at here. While perhaps not substantial or epic in scope, if this had been the 200th chapter, it would’ve still been a perfectly appropriate celebration of everything that makes it so appealing and endearing. That said, the series doesn’t reach that milestone until next week, and so long as that chapter simply proves to be as fun and enjoyable as this one was, I’ll have no complaints.