In which there is a time warp, a gratuitous cameo from Sue and Angela, and a loving retrospective of the Madarame nosehair incident. Nostalgia is in the air…

Chapter Title: Kokuhaku (trans. “confession”)
Release Date: March 25th, 2006
Serialized in: Afternoon
Author / Illustrator: Kio Shimoku (木尾士目)

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The chapter opens several months after the last, at winter Comifes. We’re treated to six pages of Sue and Angela antics as they return out of the blue, with Sue her usual incorrigible self and Sasahara and Ogiue being all discreetly lovey-dovey (until he’s socked in the gut, at least).

The scene shifts after six pages to the club room, where Madarame enters in his now-standard work suit and tie to find Saki sitting there alone. They talk about the present and reminisce about the past four years, the similar scene from years ago playing over in Madarame’s mind… he goes to buy drinks, and offers to get Saki one. She accepts, and when he returns she asks him if this scenario doesn’t remind him of something… of course, it’s what he’s been thinking of all along. “Nope, I don’t recall…” he replies.

This is more or less a metaphor for all of the Madarame internal talk we get in the rest of the chapter, with him debating whether he should use this last chance to confess his feelings for Saki or not. He decides against it (or chickens out, depending on how you read it). Instead, he says “otsukaresama deshita”.

This is one of those idiomatic phrases that’s not particularly easy to translate into English. In this case, he’s using it to acknowledge all she’s been through over the past four years – the highs and lows, everything that’s come before in the manga. She’s struck by this and gets a bit weepy, the memories all coming back at once. She gets ahold of herself, and thanks him, smiling. He realizes that not confessing was the right move.

They sit in silence for a beat or two, and then Ohno bursts into the room. She apologizes to Saki for being late, and Madarame asks if they had arranged a meeting. No, says Saki, followed by:

Ohno: Ohoho, yes you did! You promised, you promised, Saki! Come on in, everyone!
Tanaka, Kugayama and Kuchiki stagger into the room under the weight of several cardboard boxes.
Ohno: In these boxes are fifteen cosplay outfits for us, Saki! Kugayama brought them here in his car!
Saki: …~gan~…

Ohno explains that they’ll be refitting the club room for taking pictures next week, so she wants to check the costumes now. Saki protests that fifteen is too many, but Ohno assures her that she’ll only be using half of them. Saki turns to Madarame:

Saki: It seems I’m not quite done yet…
Madarame: Otsukare.

On that note of rueful commiseration the chapter ends.

Compared to the high note of the last chapter this one felt rather fillerish, though given the fact (with chapter 49 on sale today it’s official) that the series will end with chapter 50, this one fulfills the necessary function of wrapping up the on-again off-again Saki/Mada plot arc. They really do occupy separate worlds, and it seems they’ve both grown together as friends through the recognition of this, and their gradual maturation through the course of the series; Saki’s otaku-phobia seems miles away at this point, and Madarame has attained a level of social confidence and understanding – and the ability to express himself in a more open, relaxed way – that would have been impossible for him in volume one or two.

The writing and characterization is solid here, and the chapter does what it has to do – my only regret is that Kio didn’t take the time to flesh out this corner of the plot a bit more. I think it had a lot of undeveloped potential, even if the end result would have been the same; they’re both fascinating characters in their own right and I don’t think he should have felt compelled to bring Sasahara back to some arbitrary “main character” status if it didn’t suit where he saw the story going. Still, a minor gripe all in all.

As mentioned above, Chapter 49 went on sale today in the June edition of Afternoon; I’ll try to have a review of it up in less than the month it took to get around to this one. In the next few days, ideally, but no promises…