Sasaki and Miyano’s popularity just keeps on climbing. The show may have wrapped up but another anime project has already been announced. Plus, with Vol. 5 out this week it’s time to check back in on the manga. The last volume was enjoyable though sometimes too constrained by its format; does this latest installment manage to reach the same (or an even better) high quality mark?
Plot-wise, much of this volume revolves around the school cultural festival. It’s a good opportunity to place the characters in ridiculous situations and deliver new gags while still having the supporting cast at the ready to give the anxious co-leads a push when needed. The main highlights are Sasaki’s class’s bad boy cafe, the much anticipated drag competition, and the post-festival fireworks.
In terms of execution, the results are mixed. The most disappointing scene is probably the drag show…or rather, the brief follow-up to the drag show. Very little of the actual competition is depicted, with the focus instead put on Sasaki’s reactions to it. After all the build-up and Miyano’s decision to take part despite Sasaki’s wishing otherwise, it feels like a missed opportunity to not follow through more with Miyano’s own experience of the event. His ongoing arc regarding his appearance in relation to manliness also would have been logical to reflect on more here, but as is it feels like the manga aligns its themes and plot in a perfect convergence just to then fumble the follow-through.
Fortunately, the rest of the festival is much more enjoyable. The bad boy cafe is especially notable. Even with all the manga and anime I’ve consumed, and by extension all the cultural festival arcs, I’ve never seen a theme quite like it. The juxtaposition of aesthetics and reality is humorous while making the characters involved all the more endearing. The fortune-telling scene with the disciplinary committee president is especially good. His not-so-subtle nosy questions keep Miyano flustered and thinking about Sasaki, a.k.a. right on track with what the manga is truly about.
The art and panel presentation throughout this volume is also largely solid. While the four panel gag pages still have some of the same pacing issues as last time, that’s not as frequent and most transitions aren’t too abrupt. Characters’ expressions and body language are also funny and evocative, and all the chapters’ opening splash pages are especially nice. Additionally, the screen tone use throughout is lovely and reflects the characters’ internal sense of adolescent love as explosive, overwhelming, and anxiety-inducing.
The fireworks scene is an especially effective example of this. Sasaki and Miyano only glimpse them through a window in the school hallway. The literal and metaphorical meld perfectly here: the two boys, in a familiar setting, dressed in their everyday uniforms, see an extraordinary sight just out of their reach while internally pining over their feelings for one another. It’s poignant, and probably the volume’s high point.
All in all, Sasaki and Miyano Vol. 5 is an enjoyable volume that continues the titular couple’s slow but steady pace toward romance. The art is lovely throughout without too many pacing issues, and the cultural festival prompts some great character interactions. Unfortunately there are still some missed opportunities thematically that make the payoff feel dull compared to the setup. Nonetheless, this continues to be a sweet and heartfelt manga.
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