In which there is a cosplay photo shoot, a clandestine transaction, a montage of happy moments and not a single word of spoken dialogue. Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name…

Chapter Title: Itsudemo Yume wo (trans. “forever to the dream”)
Release Date: April 25th, 2006
Serialized in: Afternoon
Author / Illustrator: Kio Shimoku (木尾士目)

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Given that there isn’t any text in this chapter and thus no translation to be done it’s surprisingly hard to hash out a coherent textual description of its content. I’ll work through it as best I can, and try to sum up my feelings at the end without getting too teary-eyed… we’ll see how it goes.

The chapter starts where 48 left off, with the promised Saki / Ohno cosplay photo shoot. The rest of the club is shooed out of the room (aside from Tanaka) and we’re only shown a fleeting between-the-legs glimpse of the actual event (in hindsight I probably should have scanned that page, but there should be some incentive left over to buy the tank when it’s out in English. Brings a whole new meaning to “hindsight”, really…).

Saki makes it through the shoot only somewhat traumatized, and shares a tender yuri moment with Ohno afterward. Later that night the group disperses, with Sasahara and Ogiue returning to his flat (he asks her opinion as he tries on ties to go with his new business suit), and Madarame going back home, taking out the sheaf of Saki-Kaicho photos he acquired after the (much) earlier cosplay contest.

The next day the usual rowdiness prevails in the club room, but Madarame passes it by to meet a heavily-disguised Ohno (complete with SARS mask and sunglasses) at the end of the hall outside. She’s called him out to tempt him with a new set of Saki photos from yesterday’s shoot; he turns them down, but as Ohno presses him to take them the rest of the gang shows up. Ohno whips the folder of pictures behind her back – only it’s upside down, and they fall out.

Various reaction shots ensue, with Ohno cowering in the corner, Madarame sweating profusely, and Saki looking as if she’s going to burst into tears – before she whips out the evil broom-brandishing catgirl routine and smacks Ohno upside the head. This really has to be seen to make sense, I suppose – rest assured that it works, in context.

The next page is a montage of what the other absent members are doing on the job: Kugayama going house to house in his car, Kousaka programming eroge, Tanaka working as a tailor(?). And, the final reaction shot back in the hallway. The last page of the chapter shows the school grounds in spring, with young men in suits and young women in kimono preparing for the graduation that will soon take place.

In reaction, first things first: the sources of Saki’s cosplay shots. Oddly enough the ones we see the most of all seem to be based on models of their respective characters; the uppermost is obviously Ritsuko Kyuubel Kettenkrad in her school swimsuit, followed by the Russian Mig 60 mechamusume and Rio from Super Black Jack (full set review here). Beyond that it gets a bit dicier, though the maid is probably from HiMM and the masked girl is Vega from Gear Fighter Dendoh.

Regarding the actual content of the chapter, I felt that the lack of dialogue was a device effective in making me conscious of the distance between myself and the characters. As if the camera was slowly backing away from the narrative, a sentimental series theme swelling in the background, or as if I was looking through a thick glass window at action I was no longer a part of. We are left with the sense that this is the last hurrah for a tightly-knit club, one from which we have now been gently excluded in preparation for the final parting in the next chapter. All in all a great penultimate episode. Well done, Kio – if it has to end, as all good things must, this is certainly the way to go.

Coming soon: chapter 50, and the end of an era. Break out the kleenexes, folks.